Thursday, January 31, 2008

New 'Deaf Character' Thriller for ages 9-12 by Australian author Christine Harris

Mask of the Jackal (2008) by Christine Harris
Reading Level: 9-12 years old
150 pages
ISBN 978-0-646-48531-7

Book Description
Morgan Steele is fascinated by Ancient Egypt and mummies. Until he is alone in a museum basement and strange things begin to happen.
'There are three mummified bodies down here. I know they're thousands of years old and can't hurt me. Yet pictures flash into my mind of skin torn from faces, of gaping holes where mouths should be. I begin to sweat.'
What starts as a school assignment ends with Morgan involved in the disappearance of a mummy, kidnapping, madness, a terrifying attempt to escape danger and a search for immortality.

Author Christine Harris' Mask of the Jackal features a deaf girl named Jordy. Harris, who lives in South Australia, learned Australian Sign Language for a year and that inspired her to include a deaf character.

I can't wait to read this book! In the meantime, check out an excerpt on the author's website.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Read Captions Across America (March 3, 2008)

March 3, 2008 — Read Captions Across America™ for Read Across America Day

Read Captions Across America™ is a national reading event with an emphasis on the importance of captioned media as a reading tool for children whether they are deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing. Events and activities will take place nationwide on Read Across America Day (March 3, 2008) and throughout the week before and after this special day.

This is the third year Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is partnering with the National Education Association (NEA) to celebrate Read Across America, observed in conjunction with the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss.

For more information, click -> Read Captions Across America

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

News Award for Through Deaf Eyes

Through Deaf Eyes makers accept Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University News Award
(click to read the full story on Gallaudet's website)

The creators of the PBS documentary Through Deaf Eyes accepted a silver baton as an award for the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University 2008 News Award.

The award ceremony was held at Columbia University in New York City.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Children's Books: To Be Published in 2008

Enrique Speaks with His Hands (June 1, 2008) by Benjamin Fudge
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: Hilton Healthy Kids; Ill edition
Language: English

Book Description
Enrique is special, but his family does not understand why until a stranger introduces them to other children who are just like Enrique. Only then does the family realize that Enrique is Deaf. Enrique Speaks With His Hands is a beautifully illustrated book that can help parents teach children how to be tolerable of children who are different.

She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer (February 18, 2008) by Sally Hobart Alexander & Robert Alexander
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books
ISBN-10: 0618852999

Book Description
When she was just two years old, Laura Bridgman lost her sight, her hearing, and most of her senses of smell and taste. At the time, no one believed a child with such severe disabilities could be taught to communicate, much less lead a full and productive life. But then a progressive doctor, who had just opened the country's first school for the blind in Boston, took her in. Laura learned to communicate, read, and write—and eventually even to teach. By the age of 12, she was world famous.

Deaf Character in Book Series

A Touch of Grace (Daughters of Blessing #3) by Lauraine Snelling
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (March 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0764228110

Grace (Deaf Character) has appeared in Snelling's Red River Series, the Return to Red River, and now plays a more significant role in the The Daughters of Blessing series. A Touch of Grace is the third book in the series proceeded by A Promise for Ellie-book 1 and Sophie's Dilemma-book 2.

I'm looking forward to reading this book. The setting is the early 1900s. Mrs. Knutson has started The Blessing School for the Deaf in Blessing, North Dakota and now that Grace is eighteen years old she will start teaching with her mother. The characters throughout the book use sign language to communicate. While this book is considered a historical fiction romance, many of the characters are adolescents and young adults... and it is considered a Christian Romance so there shouldn't be any inappropriate material... but I'll give you more details once I've read it.

Book Description
She thought she knew what she wanted in life... then Jonathan arrived.
Eighteen-year-old Grace Knutson loves Blessing, North Dakota, and sees no reason to leave. She's more serious-minded than her twin sister, Sophie, and very sensitive to the feelings of others. In spite of her family's disapproval, Grace has always had a soft spot in her heart for Toby Valders, for she's seen the vulnerable side he keeps well hidden.

Jonathan Gould, the handsome scion of a wealthy New York family, creates a flurry of anticipation and speculation when he arrives in Blessing. Jonathan's father wants him to learn the value of manual labor and to appreciate the accomplishments of those not born to wealth. Surprisingly, the "city boy" takes to farm life and actually enjoys working from dawn to dusk alongside the others. Soon he finds himself inexplicably drawn to gentle, courageous Grace.

But Jonathan's affection presents an agonizing dilemma for Grace. Is he truly the one her heart desires?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Interview with Nadia Wheatley, author of Listening to Mondrian

Nadia Wheatley was born in Sydney and began writing fiction in 1976, after completing postgraduate work in Australian history. Her published work includes picture books, adolescent and young adult literature, and short stories.

In her recent publication, Listening to Mondrian (December 2007), she created a collection of short stories focusing on adolescents and their diverse family relationships focusing on how the characters analyze who they are and how they fit into their families, their communities, and the world. One short story includes a CODA (child of Deaf Adults) who has signed up for a talent competition in the town's music festival. The character opens with the song "Alien" (the title of the short story). The ten-page story includes the teenager's worries about performing and the support from Deaf parents who volunteer at the festival and use sign language to communicate.

***Read my interview with author Nadia Wheatley below*******

SPW: How did you decide to include an adolescent from a deaf family who uses sign language in your story?

NW: I think I'll just tell you how the story came about. The idea for nearly all my fiction comes from place. That is, unlike some authors who start with plot, and others who start with character, I tend to think about a place, and then a story may or may not happen in it.
The place of this story is based on the small town of Apollo Bay, where I used to live. Music is big at the school there, and Apollo Bay hosts an annual music festival. It is a pretty easy-going town, in which alternative lifestylers (and city drop-outs or sea-changers) exist alongside traditional farming and fishing families.

As to how the character came about, I guess I found myself thinking about being a misfit. I always was one when I was young and, at the age of nearly 60, I still feel as if I don't fit into most groups. It rarely bothers me, these days, but it sometimes used to when I was growing up.
Of course, when we move to a new place, many of us ago through an experience of feeling like an outsider, whatever our character or personality is like. This kind of de-stabilisation can be a good thing: it can open the way for new insights and understandings, both of ourselves and of other people.

As a kind of foil or balance to my misfit adolescent character I wanted her or him to have really well-adjusted parents. I wanted these parents to be the kind of people who find it easy to fit in and make new friends, even when moving to a new town. As opposed to the adolescent who is a loner, I wanted the parents to be 'clubbable' people. Well, though I wanted the parents to aggravate their loner-child, I didn't want them to be smug and sickening.

SPW: Do you know any deaf people or have you learned American Sign Language?

NW: I found myself thinking of a couple who lived in another small town where I had once lived. They were the parents of friends of my step-children, and they were both deaf. I didn't know them, though I used to wave at them if I saw them in the park.

SPW: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book?

NW: I don't want to say what I would like readers to take away from the story, because if the story doesn't convey this by itself, it has failed.

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

NW: As to general advice: I am sure that reading stories and books is a way for us to enter the experience of people who are different from us — whether that difference is just a different gender; whether it is something like deafness or blindness; whether it is the fact that the character lives in Japan or on Mars; or whether it is just that the character has a different sort of personality. I believe that we cannot get this sort of transformational experience by watching TV or surfing the net or even by talking to people in real life. That is not to say that these activities are not worthwhile. But reading is different.
For more information about Nadia Wheatley, click here. To purchase the book,

Monday, January 14, 2008

Interview with Dandi Daley Mackall, author of Love Rules

Love Rules (2005) by Dandi Daley Mackall
Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
Reading level: Teen
(author pictured with her horses)

Siblings Jake and Emma (Deaf Character) have been friends with Mattie as long as they all can remember. With Jake and Mattie heading off to college, Emma makes them promise not just to write but to share their wisdom about love in the form of "love rules". Readers find out all about Jake and Mattie's "love" lives through their Monday get together where they fill out Emma's postcards. I was able to reminisce about my own early years of college while reading about what Mattie and Jake's encounters with new friends, college professors, and roommates.
Emma, who was diagnosed with lupus, is described as "thin and frail"; however, I just adored her for having such a strong sense of self, a strong connection with God, and an incredible amount of confidence for being a rising senior in high school. Emma wants to be a writer when she grows up and this is the reason she asks her brother and best friend to send her "research" about love. Emma uses sign language to communicate. Jake and Mattie are fluent in sign language and often interpret for Emma in various situations.
The best part about the book is the on-going friendship the characters have shared since childhood. Having a best friend whom I met in fifth grade, I can totally relate to the connection between Emma and Mattie. While Mattie's home life isn't as charming as Jake and Emma's (to say the least), Mattie makes her home with these friends who are much more like family than anything.

Dandi Daley Mackall has been a professional writer for over 20 years and has written and published around 400 books for children, adolescents and adults. I recently had to opportunity to speak with her about her book, Love Rules. Read my interview with her below.
SPW: How did you decide to include a deaf character who uses sign language in your book?

DDM: I think Emma, my deaf character, came to mind because I’ve known a number of very strong deaf or partially-hearing women, including our daughter. I’ve seen the special connections people can make through sign. I wanted to show that friendship in Emma and Mattie.

SPW: Do you know any deaf people or have you learned American Sign Language?

DDM: Our daughter Katy lost 40% of her hearing overnight when she was 3, as a result of Alport’s Syndrome. Since then, she’s lost a good deal more, and we’ve always known that she’s expected to go completely deaf, probably without much warning. Our whole family began learning American Sign Language as soon as Katy was diagnosed. Katy wears hearing aids, so we don’t sign as much as we should. Periodically, we take a class or refresher workshop, but we’re all pretty rusty.

SPW: What type of research did you do for the book to make your characters realistic?

DDM: The characters are based so much on people I know that I didn’t have to do a lot of outside research. Emma is a lot like our Katy, except Emma has no other special needs. Katy does. Mattie has a lot of me in her, I admit.

SPW: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book?

DDM: Hopefully, many things for many readers. I do believe Emma comes across very well. I love writing about characters with uniquenesses that many people don’t understand. My books aren’t about those uniquenesses, but merely show strong characters who happen to have what others would consider difficulties, but what often prove to be assets. I also like it when readers come away from my books with greater hope and greater faith.

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

DDM: Please just go with it. Let the story take you on a ride. Sink into the characters and see the world through the eyes, heart, mind, and skin of another person. I think that’s why we read. Where else do we get to take a ride in someone else’s head?

SPW: Anything you would like to add?

DDM: I’d love to hear from any of your readers. Please check out my website at I’ve written an awfully lot of books for every age. Maybe there’s another one you might enjoy.
To purchase the book,
Also, visit the Love Rules website for e-cards, an overview of the book, and more information about books you may be interested in reading.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Interview with Paul Rowe, author of The Silent Time

The Silent Time by Paul Rowe (September 2007)
Publisher: Killick Press

I'm been going on and on about this book for about a month now. See my December posts for a brief summary and links to articles about the author. I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to discuss this book with the author. Based on his mother's experiences, The Silent Time has a strong sense of place in Newfoundland and a compelling plot that reads much like a play (not surprisingly since Rowe is both an actor and playwright). I was emotionally invested in each of the characters. With that being said, it is hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel. Read my interview with Paul Rowe below.
SPW: In Memorial's Student Newspaper, I read an interview where you explained that you actually found letters about your mother's enrollment at the Halifax School for the Deaf. Can you explain how this developed into a novel?

PR: The letters are where it all began. They are dated in the early months of 1926 and formed the entire basis for my research. I had to track down who the signatories were, their social and political circumstances, and, in doing so, I encountered many of the stories, characters and events that form the novel.

SPW: You've included so many details about Newfoundland, the history of the education of Deaf people, and some personal histories of your mother and perhaps some teachers she had. I'm sure your mother had some input in your choices that you made about the book. Will you describe your research for the novel?

PR: My mother was helpful in describing her life at the School for the Deaf, and in the small coastal community where she grew up. I went to the Public Archives of Nova Scotia and found a number of pictures and old records that sparked memories for her. I would encourage her to reminisce about these things and got some nice detail that way. For example, she told me that she used home signs before she went to Halifax, (like a finger stroke down her forehead for the family horse) and she described an incident at school where a teacher had been unkind to her. It also found its way into the book. Since one of my main characters was a politician, it was important to get the politics of the era right, as well. That required quite a bit of reading. The other big element of research was, of course, Newfoundland stamps. All the stamp stories in the novel are based on actual, sometimes slightly altered, historical events. I recently did a talk on my book for the St. John’s Philatelic Society and I’m glad to say the accuracy of my research passed muster even among the experts.

SPW: I read that the cover of the novel has a black-and-white photograph of your mother while she attended the Halifax School for the Deaf. Were you able to give feedback or suggestions about the book cover?

PR: I collaborated to some degree with the designer, Sarah Hansen. I offered some feedback on draft versions, and provided the two images on the cover; the stamp and Mom’s picture. All the other design elements are Sarah’s. I think she did a really good job.

SPW: The novel revolves about the character Dulcie but the story isn't told fully from her point of view (which would be difficult considering the story began even before her birth). Can you explain your inspirations for some of the other characters such as Leona, Paddy, and William Cantwell. Were there real or historical figures who inspired you to include these characters?

PR: William Cantwell is roughly based on William Walsh, who was the Member of the House of Assembly for the district at that time and the signatory to one of the letters I mentioned earlier. Leona and Paddy are more fictional creations, although the tragic episode in Part One of the novel is largely derived from an old Cape Shore story about a couple who shared the same fate. Sir John Crawford, the Finance Minister, is roughly based on a historical figure who most people in Newfoundland recognize pretty readily.

SPW: You clearly researched the history of deaf people and deaf education; however, while you incorporated historical references such as the Braidwood Institute and the Abbé de L'Epeé, why did the teacher Claire Batstone (one of my favorite characters in the book) refer to "Gaudillet College in Boston" instead of the actual Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C.?

PR: To tell you the truth, I don’t know how that happened, but it will be corrected in the next printing. I’m really glad you liked Claire, by the way.

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

PR: I would invite them to be willing to enter the world of a different place and time. Both my heroines, Leona and Dulcie are quite young when we first meet them. Young people might find it interesting to put themselves in my characters’ shoes, and think about their own possible reactions to the circumstances in the novel.

Among other things, this novel brings to light an issue of fundamental rights for deaf students, and for children everywhere who have the human right to an education. One of the reasons the novel is called The Silent Time is that Newfoundland’s deaf children were denied an education in the early 1930s, a time when no one was willing to speak up on their behalf. A number of children referred to in the novel never got the chance to return to school. My mother was one of those children, and I’m proud to have brought her story to light after all these years.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Deaf-Themed Literary Contest

NTID/RIT is seeking literary works about the Deaf experience. Top winners and honorable mentions will have their works published in a NTID/RIT Literary Works website. DEADLINE: March 1, 2008
For details, visit

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Upcoming New Avengers issue features artist David Mack and a major story line for Deaf Character, Echo

I start off most Saturday mornings the same way... I make coffee and then sit down to the computer to search for new publications with Deaf Characters and read literary journals. This morning was no different. After reading James Bucky Carter's "Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward our 'Optimus Prime'" in the English Journal, I decided to visit Marvel Comics' website to see what the next exciting issue of The New Avengers would hold. During my interview with David Mack in September, Mack alluded to a future for his creation Echo (the Deaf Character who originated in Marvel's Daredevil comics), "There is something else cooking with her that I am involved in but I have to wait and let Marvel announce that!"

That comment has certainly been in the back of my mind for months. Alas, the wait is over!... (sort of). Straight from Marvel Comics! The New Avengers Issue #39 will include a major story line for Echo (aka Maya Lopez). I quickly poured my coffee into a travel mug and headed for Velocity Comics... so excited that I missed the originial release date. It isn't out just yet. Look for this issue in stores in March 2008! But I did have a great chat with a guy in the comic book store and picked up a few comics... so the excursion wasn't a total loss.


The Secret Invasion is here! Award-winning artist David Mack brings his amazing talent to NEW AVENGERS to illustrate a major story in the life of Echo! Have the Skrulls infiltrated the Avengers? Is Maya Lopez the only one with proof? Will she live to tell the tale? All this and a major Avengers hook up!

Visit for details.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Interview with Steve Kluger, author of My Most Excellent Year

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park
by Steve Kluger

(To be Released March 13, 2008)
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Dial (March 13, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0803732279
My Most Excellent Year is an epistolary tale (letters, emails, instant messages, journal entries and English writing assignments) of three high school students who are writing about their "Most Excellent Year". The three main characters include: Anthony/T.C./Tick who attempts to win the heart of Alejandra; Alejandra, the strong-willed young woman who tries to balance being a diplomat's daughter while sharing a love for the stage with Augie; and, Augie, the "adopted" brother of Tick who struggles with coming out of the closet for mere moments only to realize that his friends and family are already aware that he is gay...better yet, they are all okay with it.

((Pictured Above Right: author Steve Kluger with his nephew Noah "who--outside of the fact that he isn't deaf--was the prototype for Hucky, right down to his mad face and a stuffed dog named Shut-the-Door"))

While Kluger includes three main characters, a strong secondary character named Hucky is introduced early on and then his storyline resonates throughout the entire text. Hucky is a six-year old orphan and the deaf character in the book. He mostly uses sign language and a little bit of lipreading to communicate, aside from gestures and various "faces" to convey messages. Anthony/T.C./ Tick and Augie see a great deal of themselves in young Hucky. While they "grow up" together, the teens and Hucky all find ways to believe in magic.

I am thrilled to begin 2008 with such a great book recommendation. Although the book is not yet released, it will be out by Spring Break. Read my interview below with Steve Kluger. ************************************************************************
SPW: From your website, it seems that the characters share some similarities with your own life experience. I'm curious how you decided to include the deaf character Hucky in the book? Do you know any deaf people/children?
SK: Hucky Harper was a character I came up with many years ago, but for whom I could never find a home. I tried to place him in various story lines at various times, but nothing quite fit. His age ranged from 8 to 12, depending on which plot I was attempting to squeeze him into, but in all versions he was always deaf. It wasn’t a conscious choice--it just came with his personality. I don’t know any deaf people personally, though I’m good friends with several interpreters. However, when I was four years old and in nursery school, there was a boy in our class named Bruce. He was an auditory aphasic--words were heard by him as a jumble of sounds, and when he attempted to speak, what came out was similarly garbled and unintelligible. Given his difference from the others, he was something of an outsider--but he and I became best friends. I’d read picture books with him, point out the animals, and teach him how to say the words by having him watch my lips and then by forming his mouth into the right shapes. It’s something I’ve never forgotten, and that’s probably why Hucky Harper eventually surfaced as a character. I’m attaching a photo of our nursery school graduation. Bruce and I are standing next to each other in the center of the front row. I’m looking straight ahead, and he has his head turned toward me.
SPW: Hucky is a six-year-old deaf character who uses mostly sign language and a bit of lipreading to communicate (aside from his pouting gestures). Considering that the entire cast of characters had to figure out how to communicate with Hucky, will you explain your decision to have Hucky use sign language?

SK: I wanted to see these kids create their own version of the world for this little boy. This meant having them learn some sign language, experimenting with some lipreading, and discovering their own ways to share their favorite music with a boy who can’t hear. Regular rules didn’t appeal to them--they improvised their own special means of communicating with this kid by taking bits and pieces of the established alternatives and inventing their own language. In doing so, they brought him halfway into their world while traveling halfway into his.

SPW: What type of research did you do for the book?

SK: I attended an ASL course at a local college for a semester and got pretty fluent for awhile (although at a beginner level). That was all I really needed. The other elements in the novel were comprised of many of my favorite passions, so all of that information was already in my head.

SPW: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book?

SK: To quote the last page: “Never, ever, ever stop believing in magic.” One of the throughlines in the story involves a “magical” experience with a purple balloon. This wasn’t made up--it happened between me and my nephew when he was 3-1/2, pretty much as I tell it in the book. My then-7-year-old niece wanted me to explain how it qualified as “magic,” and I told her that cartoon magic like turning pumpkins into coaches is just fairy tale stuff. Real magic comes from people’s hearts and makes impossible things happen. When you look at how Hucky’s most ardent dream is realized by novel’s end, you realize how virtually impossible it would be to pull off something like that in the world we live in--yet how simple it actually is when your heart’s making the plans.

When I was in fifth grade in Baltimore, I had a teacher who changed my life. Every one of the 36 kids in that class felt the same way--and he later said that we weren’t just the first class he’d ever taught, we wound up being the best (in a career that spanned 30 years). Many times as an adult, I’d often wished for one more chance to be sitting in my seat in that same classroom with the same kids, being taught the same lessons, and being led in the same songs we learned when we were eleven. As it happened, I’d gotten back in touch with my teacher when I was 28--and during a New Year's trip he made to California in 1990, I idly asked him how he’d feel about a 27th anniversary fifth grade reunion, back in Baltimore. Given that most of us kids hadn’t seen each other since 1963, he quite rightly thought I was nuts. However, within a month, the other 35--scattered all over the globe--had been tracked down (impossible!), had eagerly gotten on board for an early summer reunion (doubly impossible!), and eventually found themselves in our old seats in our old classroom, being taught the same lessons and being led in the same songs we'd learned when we were eleven (absolutely out-of-your-mind impossible!). We were 38. The odds that we’d all even still be alive were remote--let alone that 36 hearts would be in such harmonious synchronicity. I rest my case. Magic happens every day.

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

SK: We create families of our own all through our lives. There’s no reason that your best friend in fourth grade can’t still be one of your secret-sharers when you’re 55. And never forget what it was like to be six. I remember my favorite song in Peter Pan made a lot of sense to me when I was nine years old, though it took me half my life to understand why. The words that rang most loudly said, “If growing up means it would be/Beneath my dignity to climb a tree/I’ll never grow up.” A child’s innocence and willingness to believe is one of the greatest gifts we’re given, and most of us lose it along the way. So if you’ve lost it, get it back. It’s easy. Any kid can show you how.

SPW: Anything you would like to add....

SK: See Enchanted. It touches on all the same themes, and it’ll capture you heart. Even without sound.
The book comes out in March and I highly recommend this one. In the meantime, to learn more about the author and the book, visit his websites:
Steve Kluger’s (Author, Red Sox Fan, Uncle) Website:
My Most Excellent Year ((where you can read the beginning chapter of the book)) website:
Augie’s (Character) Page:
T.C.’s (Character) Page:
Alé ’s (Character) Page: