Children’s Book News: September-October 2022

On September 10, the Children’s Committee will be presenting a program with guest, Donna Salamoff, who will be sharing the book, The Garden Wall, which tells the tale of a special friendship between a hearing child and a deaf child. Donna, who is deaf herself, will be signing the story, while it is read out loud by another reader. Below are three other books in our collection which feature deaf characters who are strong, creative, and have much to teach us all.

A Song for a Whale, by Lynne Kelly

Suggested ages: 9-12 years

The Song for a Whale is the inspiring story of Iris, who was born deaf, as she navigates her own world and beyond, to the world of Blue 55, a hybrid blue/fin whale who is not part of a pod, but swims alone. Iris learns that scientists have discovered that Blue 55 sings her own unique song which is 55 hertz, a lower frequency than the level most other whales can hear. Iris feels an immediate connection, as most of her classmates and teachers do not communicate in sign language as she has learned from her grandparents who were also deaf. Thus begins Iris’s mission to create a “song” which Blue 55 can “hear” and not feel alone in her ocean world.

Iris’s talent and passion in repairing radios, sensing their vibrations when they are again working, provides her a practical understanding of sound frequencies. With this background, she pursues the seemingly impossible, and sets out to communicate with Blue 55. Her grandmother, who is coping with the recent loss of Iris’s grandfather, joins Iris in her mission. This culminates in a journey not only in miles, from their home in Houston to Appleton, Alaska, but also in emotional growth for them both. Song for a Whale deservedly received the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award, which honors a book that “embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

Boogie Bass, Sign Language Star by Claudia Mills, art by Grace Zong

Suggested ages: 6-9 years

Boogie, the oldest of the four boys in his family, thinks of himself as clumsy, feeling he can never get anything right. But he begins to gradually have more faith in himself during a sign-language camp which his class is participating in. He is fascinated by the creativity of the signs used in American Sign Language (ASL). He concludes that “whoever had thought up the signs was a total sign-thinking up genius!” Boogie’s confidence grows during a field trip, as he learns to communicate with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. He realizes perfection isn’t necessary, but rather being successful in sharing thoughts and feelings with others when signing.

Mills’s manuscript was critiqued by the Gallaudet University (the world’s only university in which all programs are designed for deaf or hard of hearing students) to ensure that ASL and Deaf culture was represented respectfully and accurately. The book concludes with a worthwhile postscript providing some facts about sign language. Boogie Bass is part of the series After-School Superstars.

I Am Helen Keller by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christoper Eliopoulos

Suggested ages: 4-7 years

I am Helen Keller highlights the life of this renowned and admirable woman through a format similar to graphic novels, with limited print and colorful graphics as well as occasional comic cells and frequent speech bubbles. It highlights major events in Helen’s life, beginning with her loss of sight and hearing at nineteen months, followed by two pages in black with directions for the child reader to close her eyes and block her ears in order to dramatize Helen Keller’s new world.

Helen’s frustrations as a child, the change in her world which her teacher Anne Sullivan made possible, and her accomplishments as an adult are clearly presented. To further understanding, raised dots for the Braille Script alphabet are presented so a child may not only feel Helen’s name in script but touch the letters that make up his own name. I Am Helen Keller is an excellent introduction to a revolutionary woman.