Saturday, September 29, 2007

Interview with Jacqueline Woodson, author of Feathers

In my research on deaf characters in adolescent literature, I noted that all of the characters where not diverse based upon race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status (Pajka-West, 2007). The main improvements in young adult fiction with deaf characters are that the characters are now being portrayed as culturally deaf, and that there are more deaf characters in fiction, including a variety of deaf characters in these books.
What we all want more than anything is a GOOD book with an interesting and engaging storyline and characters with whom we can relate.

When my research was being conducted, Jacqueline Woodson's ((pictured above)) book had not yet been published. Her Deaf character Sean in the book Feathers is attractive, funny, and intelligent. Aside from that, Sean is the FIRST African-American Deaf character that I’ve found in young adult literature.

Author Jacqueline Woodson has received numerous awards including the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Book Award, and the Newbery Medal for her children and young adult books. She wrote Feathers to demonstrate the various ways people find ‘Hope’ in the world. Set in January 1971, main character, Frannie latches on to an Emily Dickinson poem and writes “Hope is the thing with feathers” on her notebook. She ignores her mother’s attempts to explain the poem’s deeper meaning until her brother (and Deaf character) Sean calls her a fool (ahh, aren’t all brothers alike) and explains the meaning of ‘metaphors’.

Frannie’s world is separated by a highway. This becomes apparent when a new student, “Jesus Boy” arrives at her school. Frannie’s classmates tell the boy that he doesn’t belong on their side of the highway and that he needs to go to the white side… but “Jesus Boy” says that he isn’t white?!?! When her classmates bully him and mock sign language (since the new boy has yet to respond), the “Jesus Boy” actually uses sign language to say “No, I’m not deaf” (p.14) ?!?!

Sean has a major role in the book. His little sister looks up to him more than anyone. Sean uses sign language to communicate and attends The Daffodil School with other Black Deaf students (presumably since the school is located on “their” side of the highway). His entire family has learned sign language to communicate with him, including his grandmother with whom he shares a “secret language”. Frannie started using sign language even before she was two years old. Sean is responsible for not only "baby-sitting" his sister but for putting on a strong front when some hearing girls decide that his good looks are wasted on a deaf guy.

Many of my students really enjoyed reading this book since it includes characters with whom they can relate (always my goal!). At this point, I am planning to make this a “required” read and add the book to my curriculum.... that is how much I liked it.

To find out more about the book and the author, Jacqueline Woodson, read my recent interview with her below. ******************************************

How did you get involved with writing a book about a deaf character who uses sign language?

JW: When I first starting writing for young people, (15 years ago) I knew I wanted to write books that spoke to the people who have historically existed outside of the 'mainstream'. I had grown up in a community that was predominantly black and Latino, that was working-class and working-class poor, that had hearing and deaf people in it, gay and straight people, and many variations of family. What I remember about the deaf people I knew was that no one signed and often they weren't in school. When I started reading (as a child) I was often surprised to find the world I knew didn't exist in literature and as and adult, wanted to put that world on the page. Once I grew up and met a larger Deaf community, I began to see the variations in this community were just as they were in other communities - variations in language, ways of living, levels of education, etc. FEATHERS is not simply 'about a deaf character' -- it's about a lot of people and how each world impacts on the other. Sean's non-hearing world is as important as Frannie's hearing one -- and that they can be in the same family but walk through the world differently is part of what the book is trying to say -- which is what many of my books try to say -- that we all have a right to walk through this world in a way that is safest for us.

SPW: Will you talk about your experience meeting and working with Deaf people prior to writing this book?

JW: I studied ASL at the NY Society for the Deaf for many years and moved in a community that had hard of hearing, deaf and hearing people in it. Many of my friends are interpreters and although I did not want to be an interpreter, I wanted to speak to Deaf children as I spoke to hearing ones -- I wanted to be able to visit schools that were for the Deaf or walk into a classroom where there were deaf kids and be able to communicate with them without an interpreter. Over the years, I've found that this makes SUCH a difference for the young person -- to see that a person cared enough to learn their language. I know a good bit of sign language still -- although I wish my receptive skills were better. I speak Spanish as well. I think there is a lot of ignorance around/about what it means to be Deaf -- but I think the hardest thing for me is the invisibility factor -- and I don't want people to not see each other. Putting Sean on the page is a way of beginning -- yet again, the dialogue between the hearing and the deaf community.

SPW: What kind of research did you do in order to make the character Sean appear like a real deaf teen?

JW: Mostly I thought about myself -- about the ways in which I am different in the world and the ways in which arrogance on the part of others at times tries to disallow that difference to be valid. And I thought about the deaf kids of my childhood -- about my memory of their hunger to speak to us in a way that we understood. I thought about the ways we were cruel and the way the world can be cruel. I thought about the gifts that come with walking through the world in this other way - this way that can see what others can't and/or take for granted. Mostly, I did what I do for all my characters -- go inside myself to bring that feeling of being 'other' in a certain world, to the page.

SPW: What one thing do you hope young readers take away from "Feathers" and all of its characters?

JW: My hope is the same hope I have for all decent literature, that the reader walks away thinking about a bigger world and a greater good.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

JW: Stay open.
To find out more about the book and Jacqueline Woodson, visit her website:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What in the World is Sharon Reading?

Here are some books/ interviews that I'm working on.

Upcoming posts:

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (review and interview)

Echo by C.L. Kelly (review and interview

Changes for Julie by Megan McDonald (review and interview)

To Be Read:

Deception's Full Circle by J.G. Martinson (it just arrived in the mail today!!!)

Writing Deafness: The Hearing Line in Nineteenth-Century American Literature by Christopher Krentz (What! An academic text on this blog??? Yep!... I've been waiting for this one for a bit--it just arrived in the mail today)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Interview with Sarah Miller, author of Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

Sarah Miller (pictured left)

Before becoming a teacher in the field of Deaf Education, I never dreamed of teaching anyone…. let alone deaf students. Similarly, I didn’t wake up one day and say “Ya know, for the next decade I would like to learn American Sign Language so that one day I can be fairly competent enough to teach English as a second language. I didn’t set out to save anyone. In fact, since becoming an educator in the field, I am increasingly annoyed when someone asks my profession, I reply “Deaf Education”, and then they react, “how honorable”… “how noble”.. Or “that must be a challenge” (sighs and rolls eyes).

The reason for this trip down memory lane is due to Sarah Miller’s new book, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller. In June, I put the book on my Blog with a note “Most of my friends know that I'm not a big fan of books about Helen Keller”. I add my little story above because in my interview, I mention my bitterness regarding Helen Keller books. Sarah Miller sets me straight (and by that I mean she has written a book that I just couldn't put down). Refreshingly, her book takes on Annie Sullivan's point of view as a young woman who not only desperately needed a job but saw Helen Keller as a child, first and foremost, who needed and deserved discipline! She wasn’t taking on any “cause” to save the child’s life. She wanted Helen to behave and then possibly become educated. When Annie pitied the child, it wasn’t because she was deaf or blind but because she had never been expected to learn. In Miller’s book, readers will learn just as much about Annie Sullivan, including her unfortunate family life and her brother whom she lost at a young age, as they will about Helen Keller’s education.

On her webpage, Sarah admits "I'm happiest when I manage to read three to five books a week. Okay, I really like it best when I can read five to seven books a week". She is fortunate enough to work at a children's bookstore, Halfway Down the Stairs, where she reads the latest books. She is bold. She wrote and befriended Donna Jo Napoli (an author I have yet to contact although her webpage is listed under this blog's author section.... she writes books to help Deaf people learn to read). If Sarah lived near me, we'd probably be friends... of course, we probably wouldn't get to know each very well because we'd be reading.

All that being said…. Check out my interview with Sarah Miller below.
SPW: Some people call it that ah-ha moment, that point when one realizes something for the first time. On your website, you explain that watching the water pump scene of The Miracle Worker made your cry. Will you explain how that one moment inspired a book published nearly a decade later?

SM: I don’t know quite why or how it happened – I’d seen the movie more than once, so the conclusion wasn’t a surprise – but seeing that play live sparked an interest both in Helen Keller and in language itself. The impact language has on thought fascinated me, as did the realization that to a certain extent you need language to even communicate with yourself.

I didn’t walk out of the theatre that day intending to write a book, but seeing the play definitely lit the fuse. I have an ever-present list of historical passions, and Annie and Helen became one of them right then and there. I read all the books I could get my hands on, took all the sign language classes my university offered, taught myself Braille, and changed my major to linguistics. Eventually I visited the Keller home in Alabama. At some point my not-so-casual interest turned into an official project. By that time I’d figured out there was another side to the story that was barely explored in most accounts.

SPW: My bitterness about "other" Helen Keller books is that they typically neglect her teacher, Annie Sullivan and reveal the story, aside from a few disagreements, as one where Helen was able to quickly learn language.

SM: I think your bitterness is quite justified, actually. Even Helen Keller herself admitted in her book, Teacher:
“Exceedingly I regret that in The Story of My Life I was careless in what I wrote about the progress Helen made in language and in learning to speak. The narrative was so telescoped that it seemed to ordinary readers as if Helen in a single moment had ‘grasped the whole mystery of language.’ What misunderstandings I must have created by my artless account of what I am sure a critical, mature person would have presented with a proper sense of perspective.”

SPW: Did you find it difficult to tell this story from Annie's perspective?

SM: I really didn’t find it difficult to tell the story from Annie’s perspective. I was very lucky that Annie’s original letters from her early weeks with Helen are still accessible in some editions of Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life. Being able to follow Annie’s day-to-day actions and read her thoughts in her own words made a world of difference. But it was just as important to gather other people’s impressions in order to get a fuller picture of Annie. Eventually, by reading and reading, I got a feel for Annie’s personality and her voice. Did I get it “right”? There’s really no way to know for certain. All I can tell you is that after years of research, it feels right to me.

SPW: What do you hope young people will learn from this story that they might not from another Helen Keller book?

SM: On a superficial level, I would love for people to realize that Annie Sullivan did not travel to Alabama on some nobly inspired mission to free the mind of a deaf-blind child. The woman needed a job, plain and simple.

Mostly, though, I hope people will see that Annie didn’t “sacrifice” her life for Helen. Annie needed Helen every bit as much as Helen needed Annie. In my opinion, the depth of Annie’s emotional needs almost precisely matched the breadth of Helen’s requirements for physical assistance. In a sense each saved the other from her own form of darkness.

SPW: Helen Keller met some famous people through her travels. From your perspective, how did Annie Sullivan not become star-struck?

SM: I have an inkling that Annie secretly believed her star (Helen) trumped all the rest. They met hordes of famous people and adored Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell, and Charlie Chaplin, but off the top of my head I don’t recall Annie ever being star-struck by any of the luminaries she met. Also, so many people were so deeply moved by meeting Helen that I wouldn’t be surprised if Annie became happily accustomed to a sort of one-way flow of attention.

SPW: How do you think she handled always being second to Helen Keller and hardly receiving recognition for her work?

SM: I think Helen’s unwavering loyalty to her teacher had a lot to do with how Annie managed her own second-string status in the eyes of the public. Annie knew Helen was something extraordinary, and I think the fact that Helen’s devotion never faltered meant more to Annie than any outside recognition.

Annie’s was a famously contradictory personality, and this is just another example of that – in this case, a fierce pride in Helen combined with a sort of shyness regarding her own part in what the public regarded as a miracle.

SPW: Through all of your research, how did your story take form?

SM: In addition to getting a feel for my characters’ personalities, my research was largely a matter of piecing together the various accounts of Helen and Annie’s early interactions and then ferreting out gaps to fill with fiction. I’m an awful stickler for historical accuracy, so the chronology itself dictated the form of the story. But since a person’s emotional landscape is rarely completely charted, I used the available clues as a springboard into Annie’s point of view. In many cases, what isn’t said turns out to be just as interesting as what is. The Perkins doll is a great example of that – only Helen wrote about the fate of the doll. Annie doesn’t mention the doll at all in her letters from that time, but it’s clear from other sources and memoirs that it was likely very important to her.

I also worked very deliberately to include slices of Annie’s past whenever possible, because I think large chunks of her experiences were directly relevant to how Annie approached Helen in those early days, as well as to how she formed such a deep relationship with Helen. It was fascinating to see how many clear parallels could be drawn between Annie’s past and the challenges she faced with the Kellers.

SPW: I read that you found some juicy details about Helen preparing to elope with a man named Peter Fagan. I vaguely remember hearing that before. Was there anything that was particularly fascinating?

SM: My favorite facet of the Peter Fagan affair is that Annie knew nothing about it. Helen even lied to her beloved teacher’s face when confronted about Fagan. Annie and Helen had been together for nearly 30 years by that time, and I find it astonishing (and frankly a little amusing) that Helen was able not only to harbor such a huge secret, but then to lie convincingly about it to the one person who probably knew her best of all.

SPW: Did you find any fascinating stories about Annie?

SM: As far as Annie herself, I don’t recall uncovering anything really striking in and of itself. There were a couple instances where a notion I’d formed about Annie was confirmed nearly world-for-word in my research. That’s a neat feeling, to be able to sit back and say, “I knew it!”

SPW: I know that I'm particularly interested in Helen's communication skills before and after Annie's arrival. So if you wouldn't mind elaborating on that, please do.

SM: When Annie arrived to teach her, Helen was already using about 60 home-signs she’d invented herself. Most of them were nouns, but she did have a few signs for adjectives and actions: spreading her fingers wide meant large and pinching a little bit of skin on her hand or arm meant small. As Annie later explained, “a push meant go and a pull meant come and so on.” Many of Helen’s signs were imitative, such as miming putting on glasses to indicate her father, or tying imaginary bonnet strings under her chin to refer to her aunt.

Those 60 signs weren’t enough, though. Being mostly concrete, they severely limited her ability to communicate anything abstract, such as tastes, feelings, or a sense of time. Imagine how maddening that would be – your functional senses allow you experience sensations of touch, smell and taste, and those are the very things that are most difficult to express with descriptive signs. (Try miming the sentence “Yesterday I ate a grapefruit but I like oranges better because they’re sweet” and you’ll see what I mean.) Even Helen’s noun-signs weren’t always understood. In effect, Helen had to not only invent a sign for everything she wanted to express, but teach them to everyone she met. Daily, sometimes hourly, Helen’s frustration at not being able to communicate would trigger one of her famous meltdowns, which I called “frustration-tempests” in Miss Spitfire.

One thing I found interesting and challenging to deal with was the fact that Helen had never stopped saying “wah-wah” for water. That’s quite a problem when you’re trying to convince your audience that Helen didn’t understand the meaning of words. In The Miracle Worker, Helen says “wah-wah” for the first and only time at the pump, but that’s exactly backwards. In reality, Helen said “wah-wah” virtually every time she came in contact with it. I can understand why William Gibson chose to hold her speech until the end of his play – since it’s impossible to see underwater fingerspelling from row “H” in the balcony, having Helen speak is the best way to get the miracle across to a large audience. However, as Roger Shattuck points out in his introduction to the restored edition of The Story of My Life, the downside of that hugely dramatic moment is that it inadvertently feeds the prejudice that spoken language is superior to signed language.

To avoid perpetuating that notion in Miss Spitfire, I had to let Helen say “wah-wah” every time she touched it. When she finally understands the meaning of the letters w-a-t-e-r at the pump in chapter 29, she cuts off her “wah-wah” mid-syllable and begins to spell the word instead of saying it. As in reality, signed language overtakes spoken. I hope that simple reversal will help to show that the form language takes doesn’t matter. What Helen actually learned at the pump were two simple concepts that are equally true for both spoken and signed words:

1.) Words are symbols. They don’t have to resemble objects and concepts, only represent them. (Of course, signs like baby and words like bam do sometimes look or sound like what they name, but not very often.)

2.) Perhaps most importantly, Helen understood in a single moment that words already existed for anything she wanted to express. In most basic terms, she realized she didn’t have to invent signs anymore, just learn the ones everyone else was already using.

However, it’s not as though she left the pump suddenly fingerspelling full sentences after these revelations. Annie still had plenty to teach her, for at that point Helen only realized that concrete objects had names. As Helen admitted in later life, “What happened at the well-house was that…she [Helen] associated words correctly with objects she touched, such as ‘pump,’ ‘ground,’ ‘baby,’ ‘Teacher,’ and she gave herself up to the joy of release from inability to express her physical wants. […] She only thought the words she had learned and remembered them when she needed to use them. She did not reflect or try to describe anything to herself.” It took many more patient weeks for Annie to teach her verbs, adjectives, and prepositions like on, in, and under.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your book for the first time?

SM: I’d give them a quote from Annie herself to keep in mind as they read:
“The truth of a matter is not what I tell you about it, but what you divine in regard to it.”

Miss Spitfire is what I have divined from the information Annie and Helen left behind.

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller
Publication Date: July 28, 2007
Age Range: 10 to 12
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
ISBN: 1416925422

For more information about Miss Spitfire and Sarah Miller, visit Check out her Blog: to learn what she is reading (Wow, does she read!!!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New Books Updated

Robert and the Happy Endings by Barbara Seuling (Author), Paul Brewer(Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Cricket Books (March 13, 2007)

Main character, Robert befriends the new girl Taylor, who is deaf and uses sign language and lipreading to communicate.

Wait for Me by An Na
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Puffin Reprint Edition (September 6, 2007)
Mina appears to be the perfect daughter. She is bound for Harvard, president of the honor society, a straight A student, helps out at her family's dry cleaning company and takes care of her young sister, Suna (since their mother isn't such a nurturer). During the summer before her senior year in high school, Mina appears to be responsible. She has conjured up so many lies that lead her mother into believing in Mina's fabricated life. In reality, a family "friend", using that term lightly, has taught her about stealing from the family's business. Mina's perfection turns out to be a life of lies.
The character, Suna, is "hearing-impaired" and uses hearing aids.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An interview with the Creator (David Mack) of one of my favorite Deaf Characters (Echo)

(Character Echo pictured from Marvel Comics' Daredevil-- note the ASL handshapes in the background)

I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert…. And I don’t try to play one on this blog. I know very little about comic books and graphic novels… whenever I write about them I have to look up the vocabulary terms to describe the little speech bubbles and panels. Yet, I do know what makes my students happy and what makes me excited about teaching.

When I first began researching the topic of Deaf Characters in Comics and Graphic Novels, I hadn’t picked up a comic book since I was in high school… in those days I was reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comics as they were published. I also loved the illustrations of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and some of the early comic book illustrations of Edgar Allan Poe stories. In fact, I still own all of those original comics and they have never made their way into my classroom. Why? Well, I guess I was afraid that they would get ruined or not be appreciated… and frankly there are so many memories and emotions tied up in those books. From where I’m typing, I can look over to my overstuffed bookshelves and spy them in the corner.

With all that love and passion, why did I not think about simply buying copies of these collections and putting them in my classroom? My students were the ones who urged me, after a decade of neglect, to examine comics with older, more experienced eyes…. And oh, yeah, if I could find some cool Deaf Characters along the way that would be great too. I tried but as much as I tried I didn’t find many cool Deaf Characters…. I found only one whom I liked and felt comfortable recommending. That character’s name is Maya Lopez, (also known as) Echo.

I originally liked Echo because she broke away from prior researchers’ typecasts of Deaf Characters in literature. She wasn’t a white male who was a victim of her deafness. She wasn’t isolated because she was unable to communicate with her peers. Echo is strong and confident... but that doesn’t mean she is without flaws—probably the reason I like her so much now. The character goes through various levels of growth.

If you’ve glanced through this blog you know that I adore this character who first debuted as a love interest for Matt Murdock in Daredevil in the late 1990s. A man of many talents (artist, writer, illustrator, etc.) named David Mack created her and the incredible storyline about her life as a multilingual, biracial, strong-willed woman. I could go on and on about the multi-media artwork and how incredible the inclusions of both American Sign Language and Native American’s Indian Sign Language (Wow, David Mack did his research) added to the depth of the character but I’ll save that for academic publications and let you enjoy my recent interview with David Mack (pictured below).
After reading his release schedule, I feel a bit guilty for even taking the time to interrupt his busy life…. For instance, his children’s book The Shy Creatures just hit bookstores. The book is a charming story of a shy girl (with a ton of books that she sort of hides behind-- so how can you not love a girl with books???) who decides that when she grows up, she wants to be a doctor of shy creatures (like Big Foot, a unicorn, some alien-looking creature and so on). Precious! Okay, so I'm a little star-struck!
Without further ado, my interview with David Mack. *********************************************************************************
SPW: How did you come up with Echo's storyline? (Mack pictured in his "studio" i.e. porch)

DM: I began working for Marvel as a writer, writing the Daredevil series right after director Kevin Smith. One of the things that the editor (and artist of the Daredevil series) Joe Quesada asked me to do was create a brand new character in this Daredevil story. The Daredevil character is blind and deciphers his world in a unique way. I thought he would have a unique connection with a character that also views their world through her own unique perspective. In a way different from Daredevil’s but in a way that was somewhat complimentary.

Daredevil deciphers much of his world from sound instead of sight. Echo grew up not having access or understanding of this “audible world” and therefore learned to decipher all of the visual cues of the world as a language that she pieced together by an acute pattern recognition. As a child, she began to realize the rhythms of body language, and facial expression and lip movement, and eventually began to see all movement as a kind of language. I began with these characters, their unique histories and childhoods, and motivations, and let them interact with each other.

SPW: What kind of research did you do in preparation to write from the perspective of an empowered Deaf, Latina Native American female?

DM: I read various autobiographies and biographies of people who had grown up deaf from childhood. This opened up an entire new world to me. I was fascinated to see things from that perspective and that influenced many of the details of the story.
I remember an autobiography where a boy was stunned to learn that rain made a noise. So if that visual element had a corresponding noise, he wondered what sound snow made. Or what sound a rainbow would make.
For the Echo- Vision Quest story, I also researched quite a bit on Indian sign language which fit into the language and symbology of the story. Much of this story was inspired my an uncle of mine who is Native American and had me draw Native American stories and symbology that he told me as a kid.

Much of the story was about the power of story telling, and storytellers as the shamans or cultural guides of our world. I also read autobiographies of Native American storytellers and artists, including those in which the storytellers describe themselves as shamans or medicine men that pass on their medicine through their stories. And I felt like the Echo story was a continuation of that.
SPW: Could you explain how you collaborated with the artists on your Daredevil issues? Did you give the artist a layout of what you wanted since some of your writing was immersed in the art itself? (I'm explicitly interested in the art which includes Indian Sign Language and American Sign Language)

DM: For the first Daredevil story, Marvel Editor In Chief, Joe Quesada was the artist. I gave him layouts to go with my script. This was just to make the script more clear to him as some of it was designed in an unconventional way. And I was writing specifically with his artistic talents in mind. Joe took the best parts of my layouts and fused that with his own dynamic approach to the art. For the story with the Indian Sign Language, and American Sign Language, I did the art to that series myself. So I went through a series of sketches and layouts to get it just right. And then worked bigger from that.

SPW: How did the character get picked up by The New Avengers? (sorry if this is clearly a novice reader's type of question…I guess I'm asking more about who "controls" the character—do you now collaborate on Maya's plot or are you disconnected from the character?)

DM: Brian Michael Bendis writes The New Avengers and he chose her as a character for his series. He was kind enough to mention this idea to me ahead of time to see what I thought about it, but he did not have to. And I thoroughly enjoy his writing and his additions to the life of the character. While I created the character of Echo, Marvel owns the character. They have been kind enough to let me establish the character a bit and flesh out her history, but it is a joy to give something back to the Marvel Universe. I’ve written other Marvel characters that talented writers created long ago, and it is nice to feel like I have contributed back to Marvel with characters that now have a life of their own.

SPW: What are you future plans for Maya/Echo?

DM: I certainly do have some! Marvel has suggested I write a future Echo series, so that would be fun, and the story builds on her talent at pattern recognition, in the form of her basically being a walking Rosetta stone of language. And there is something else cooking with her that I am involved in but I have to wait and let Marvel announce that!

[SPW Note to Readers: Here’s what I think he is talking about… in an August 24 interview with ( he mentioned that several of Daredevil’s girlfriends will be making appearances in Daredevil: End of Days…. Echo is a pretty popular character so it is likely she’ll show up… but this is just my prediction:)]

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time today?

DM: My main advice for students who want to pursue their own creative endeavors- writing, art, music, etc., is to just do it. You start it and keep doing it and figure out the details of what you want from it only from the sheer act of doing it on a regular basis. And then you find ways to make it grow and find a delivery system for it. My current Kabuki series from Marvel: KABUKI-The Alchemy is all about this. The story is basically a blueprint for turning your dreams and ideas into reality. But not in an abstract way. In a concrete, step by step practical way, that is applicable for just about anything. The story includes principals that I have developed in my professional work in the last 15 years, and illustrates those principles in very practical and hands on ways of immediately turning your 2D ideas into 3D reality. The #1 rule is to start it now, and do exactly what you want to do. Everything else grows organically through the practice of that.

Thanks David Mack! It is always exciting to meet someone who loves his job as much as I love mine. How refreshing to know that we don't have to grow up!

Be sure to visit David Mack’s website for more information about appearances, his artwork etc. There is even an interesting DVD The Alchemy of Art: David Mack…. Viewers can watch a trailer that includes various art pieces and an interview [sorry the trailer is not closed-captioned].

Don’t forget! Pick up Marvel Comics' Daredevil: Parts of a Hole (Reprints DAREDEVIL (Vol. 2) #9-15), Daredevil issues #51, 52, 53, 54, 55 for your bookshelves or classroom... and for younger children or adults who have never quite grown up (and that is perfectly OKAY!), check out Mack's latest book The Shy Creatures.

Can't get enough of Echo? Pick up Marvel Comics' The New Avengers issues 30-33.

Can't get enough of David Mack? Check out his action figure?!?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The Binnacle Boy" by Paul Fleischman

Graven Images: Three Stories by Paul Fleischman
Candlewick Press: 116 pages
Reading Level: Grade 5-8

The recipient of a Newbery Honor, a Notable Children's Book Award, and a "School Library Journal" Best Book of the Year Award, Graven Images:Three Stories by Paul Fleischman (originally published in 1982) are now back in print (Candlewick, 2006). Each tale involves a "graven image" which is probably why I was attracted to the title. Actually my co-worker and friend, Tim, told me that there was a deaf character in the first story, "The Binnacle Boy".
On the back of the book cover: "When a boat drifts into a New England port with all its crew dead, only a shipboard statue knows what took place. Can a boy carved from wood reveal the secret?"

Miss Frye waits for her son to return from sea and young Sarah to come clean her home when she greets Sarah's sister and main deaf character, Tekoa. Tekoa explains that Sarah has become ill and that she has come in her sister's place. The story takes a supernatural turn when the townspeople discover that the crewmen of the ship have been killed. Townspeople begin whispering their secrets to The Binnacle Boy statue (binnacle pictured right). To pass the time, Miss Frye's "friends", some busy-bodies in the town, take advantage of Tekoa's ability to read lips and spy on the townspeople and their secrets. While she sits looking out the window, will she discover the true murderer of the crew? Will the story have a shocking ending? You'll probably guess what happens but the story is worth reading!

For more information on the talented Paul Fleischmen (author of Seedfolks and Wirligig) visit
Thanks Tim!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Books Updated (Fiction & NonFiction)

Regarding the Bees: A Lesson, in Letters, on Honey, Dating, and Other Sticky Subjects by Kate Klise (Author), M. Sarah Klise (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 122 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (August 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0152057110
The seventh graders at Geyser Creek Middle School are preparing for a spelling bee and a standardized test called the BEE (Basic Education Evaluation). This year the hunt for their honeys has become all-important. It's a good thing they have Honey, a bee that spells as their class pet--and one fabulous teacher named Florence Waters.
The character named Sugar Kube, who is the school custodian, is deaf and uses sign language. The students try to find a way to learn the language so that they can communicate with her. Also, the character, Sam, begins losing his hearing and becomes completely deaf.
This books is interesting because it includes notes, letters,newspaper clippings and so on. It reads like part chapter book and part graphic novel.

Tintin and the Secret of Literature by Tom McCarthy
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Granta UK (October 28, 2007)
ISBN-10: 1862078319
Included is Calculus, the deaf man who invented a "sound weapon"
Historical Fiction
From Telegraph to Light Bulb with Thomas Edison (My American Journey)by Deborah Hedstrom-Page (Author), Sergio Martinez (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 84 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (September 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 080543271X


Rockets (Space Innovations) (Library Binding)by Ron Miller
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Library Binding: 112 pages
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books (CT) (November 2007)
ISBN-10: 0822571536

Includes information about Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who was a visionary and pioneer of astronautics. He theorized many aspects of human space travel and rocket propulsion decades before others, and played an important role in the development of the Soviet and Russian space programs. Tsiolkovsky lost his hearing as a child and was not allowed to attend school. Luckily, he was home schooled and had a successful life.

A Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas (Chicken Soup for the Soul) by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: HCI (October 15, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0757306462
Includes the selection "The Sound & Spirit of Christmas Through theEars of a Deaf Woman" beginning on page 235.

New Books Updated

Firefly and the Quest of the Black Squirrel (The Fairy Chronicles) by J. H. Sweet (Author), Tara Larsen Chang (Illustrator) Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 128 pages Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; 1 edition (July 1, 2007) ISBN-10: 1402208758

The Fairy Chronicles is a series of modern fairy tales full of magical creatures and fascinating characters who work to protect nature and fix serious problems in the world. Minor character, Hollhock, is "unique because she is the only" deaf fairy. She communicates through lipreading and sign language (yep, the fairy has a sign language interpreter too).

Changes for Julie (American Girls Collection) by Megan McDonald (Author), Robert Hunt (Illustrator), Susan McAliley(Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: American Girl (September 2007)
ISBN-10: 1593693540
Julie is sent to detention for passing a note to Joy, a new deaf student who has trouble understanding what their teacher is saying. Determined to change the rules for detention and the system itself, Julie decides to run for student body president. Her choice for vice president is Joy....but then Julie worries (mostly because the girls in the class aren't thrilled with her decision) that she won't be elected if she partners with someone so "different". Will Julie compromise her principles? Will she win the election? Read the book to find out.

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight (Author), Marguerite Kirmse (Illustrator)Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Square Fish; Reissue edition (September 18, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0312371314
The Duke is deaf (has lost his hearing over the years and now yells).

Bunker 10 by J. A. Henderson
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (October 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0152062408

At eight o'clock in the evening, 24 December 2007, Pinewood MilitaryInstallation exploded. The blast ripped apart acres of forest and devastated the remote highland valley where the base was located. No official cause was given for the incident. Inside Pinewood were 185 male and female personnel--a mixture of scientists and soldiers. There were also seven teenagers. Bunker 10 is a thriller perfect for fans of video games, science fiction, and television shows like 24.
Minor character, Sherman, is deaf and wears hearing aids. Check out Bunker 10's website !

Saturday, September 01, 2007

International Children's Books with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Characters

While searching the internet, I found these books mentioned on the van Asch Deaf Education Centre of New Zealand website ( While I was unable to find the books for purchase on the U.S. site, I did find them directly from the Thomson Learning Australia publishing website (

SUPER-TUNED! by Heather Hammonds
Publisher: Nelson Thomson Learning, 2000, Reading Age: 3-4th grade

Super-tuned is a beginner chapter book/ picture book. The main character, Nick has a unilateral hearing loss and is fitted with "super-tuned" hearing aids which inable him to hear a police car-chase and a mayday call from a fishing boat. Nick enjoys his hearing aids because they help to save the fishermen.

Jason and the Blind Puppy by Dawn McMillan
Publisher: Nelson Australia, 2004
In this beginner ‘chapter’ book (3 chapters), main character, Jason, is deaf and wears hearing aids. Jason also uses (New Zealand???) sign language.

Missing! by Dawn McMillan,
Publisher: Nelson Australia, 2004
In a follow-up series,main character Jason is featured. Again this book includes some illustrated signs.

WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM? by Geoff Thompson
Publisher:Thomson Learning Australia, 2003, Reading Level: 3-4th grade

What's Your Problem is an instructional reader that focuses on solving problems such as space, woodworking, recording music and hearing. In the section on hearing, the authors answer questions on hearing aids, cochlear implants and an early ear trumpet. Through charts and diagrams, they show how a cochlear implant works.

Recently Released and to be Released in September

These books have already been mentioned on this blog but are now released and available for purchase (or will be later this month).

Some Kids Are Deaf by Lola M. Schaefer
Hardcover - Revised
ISBN: 1429608110
Reading Level: 3rd grade and up
(mentioned on this blog July 8, 2007)

Special Stories for Disability Awareness: Stories and Activities for Teachers, Parents and Professionals by Mal Leicester, Taryn Shrigley-Wightman
ISBN-10: 1843103907
For ages: 4-11 with adult supervision
(mentioned on this blog June 30, 2007)

Tailor's Daughter by Janice Graham
Paperback - Reprint
ISBN: 0312374380
Reading Level: Teen to Adult
(mentioned on this blog April 29, 2007)
The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa by Josh Swiller (NON-FICTION)
ISBN: 0805082107
Reading Level: Teen to Adult
(mentioned on this blog on June 30, 2007)