Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy [Hardcover]
Bill Wise (Author), Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (April 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600604110

Book Description
William Hoy loved baseball. Growing up in the 1860s and ’70s, he dreamed of one day playing in the major leagues. A far-off fantasy for many boys, fulfilling this dream was even more of a long shot for William, who was deaf.
Striving to find his place in a hearing world, Hoy became a shoemaker. He took pride in his work, but baseball was still his real love. When an amateur team coach saw him playing behind the shoemaker’s shop, Hoy dazzled the coach with his hard-hitting skills. Moving from amateur clubs to the minor leagues and eventually to the majors, Hoy proved himself again and again—overcoming obstacles and becoming a star both on and off the baseball diamond.
Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy is a tribute to one of the most inspirational figures in baseball history. A talented player with a standout record, Hoy is a shining example that success in life should not be measured by differences but by drive and determination.

Interview with author B Roman

Publisher: Lulu February 26, 2012

B Roman is an adolescent literature author who incorporates mystical and musical themes in her work. She describes The Secrets of the Moon Singer as “a metaphysical adventure series which involves a deaf teenage boy who comes to realize over time that his ‘disability’ is also his greatest gift. But this realization does not come easily - or even in the first book of the trilogy” Deaf Character David Nickerson is confronted by a series of family crises: his father's unemployment, his deafness after a serious illness and the disappearance of his sister. David begins experimenting with crystals and even conjures up the Moon Singer which takes him on a fantastic journey. In the "other world," David is able to hear. Roman writes, “My character's deafness is not just a plot device, as readers will discover if they stay with me through the many otherworldly journeys the boy makes. The stories speak to unconditional love, family loyalties, dealing with tragic loss, and experiencing unexpected miracles.” This trilogy is how Roman made her debut into young adult fiction.

SP: What made you decide to make David's character deaf or to even include a deaf character?
BR: In order to answer that, I have to go back to the beginning, and to how I was inspired to write the trilogy itself.  I don't want to get too metaphysical here, but the stories have their roots in my delving into spiritual and supernatural subjects.  I actually own a Singer crystal – shaped like a small sailboat - that inspired the Moon Singer trilogy and its first adventure, “The Crystal Clipper.”  I found this unique crystal at a crystal workshop one day – actually, it found me – which, it is said, is what crystals are preordained to do.  I would hold the crystal up and ponder it now and then, and a story began to take hold in my mind.  Originally, it was to be a children's picture book about a little boy and his magic crystal shaped like a boat that let him sail to magical places.  But then it grew in scope and little by little found its focus. 

Young David Nickerson has come by his own Singer crystal because it was meant for him; he is the one true owner of the Singer, which gives him all of his powers and manifests into the Moon Singer ship which takes him on all of his adventures. David is a hearing impaired young man – normal in every way in his “real life” – who becomes an "action hero" with extraordinary powers in worlds he never knew existed, because of his deafness:  this is an important aspect of young David's character which allows me to demonstrate how he can hear the internal cravings of his soul, understand the hearts and minds of others, and find his own individual power and strength.  Hearing people who meditate are always instructed to do so in a quiet, silent environment - "Be still, and know..."  David just has to learn how to use his natural silence for his own growth and knowledge, and so his "disability" becomes his greatest gift. But he doesn't come by this knowledge easily or quickly.  It takes the three books to solidify. 

SP: What type of research did you do for the book to make your characters realistic? 
BR: I've been a performing artist since I was a child, and in my adult years I also became a song writer and author of non-fictions books on the power of music.  It is no accident of creativity that my music career would carry over into my story writing. A strong underlying theme of The Secrets of the Moon Singer and my other children's stories concerns the power of music to heal, to represent love and truth, to create and sustain life – or to destroy it. Thus, in "The Crystal Clipper" we have Princess Saliana whose song has the gift of healing, and her sacred Rose Crystal Pendant contains the musical codes of immortality.  For David, I researched what kind of illnesses could have caused him to becomes deaf (he wasn't born that way), what types of hearing aids and other devices he could use to function normally in life, and what treatments for his deafness were available - (none of which worked for him, when they would have for someone else, and why they didn't - but that's a major part of the storyline). 

SP: Do you know any deaf people or have you learned American Sign Language? 
BR: I know a few people who have hearing impairments, but with the help of hearing aids they are able to hear quite well.  I have a close friend who is a speech therapist who uses sign language with her deaf clients, most of whom are children.  I have not learned any sign language myself, so my experience with the deaf is very limited.  In fiction, while one can take license with characters and plots, it is also important to make your stories credible and to treat the subject matter with respect. One doesn't always have to have a personal experience to write about it; for example, an author can write a detective story without having been a detective, but the author still has a responsibility to do the research required to make the detective realistic.  Although I've placed my main character, David, in far-fetched situations, I do strive to make him as credible as possible in the way that he deals with his deafness in both the real world as well as the "other world."

SP: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book? 
BR: As the adventures follow David's “coming of age” transformation from a na├»ve and conflicted boy to a determined and purposeful young man, readers may find themselves able to examine their own lives and work through any obstacles that have been holding them back from realizing their true potential. There is a lot of family angst going on in the stories, and the characters are constantly learning how to deal with these relationships.  I also touch on topical issues such as respect for the environment, ethics (or lack thereof) in business, the misuse of power, the contrast between good and evil, and the importance of personal and Universal Truth and integrity.
As the stories developed, I hoped to reach young boys looking for a main character who triumphed heroically over his circumstances, as well as appeal to young girls who are looking for a boy who will gallantly protect and selflessly nurture them, all the while allowing girls to maintain their individuality and strength of character.  For both genders I wanted to create characters they could respect and whose virtues they would want to emulate.
I realize that teens today are attracted to pop culture that focuses on dark and violent themes, but my mind just doesn't go there in storytelling.  I hope that my stories will offer kids a balance, especially if they are just beginning to ponder ethical, spiritual and metaphysical thoughts and concepts.  Of course, I try to give them an enjoyable, suspenseful, and uplifting reading experience.  It is a trilogy of adventures written to appeal to the youth in all of us, and with a respect for language and prose that hopefully will inspire young people to read material that requires time and attention to spiritual matters. 
In contrast, I try to write very visually.  I am a lover of films, especially good films for kids (of all ages) like E.T., Free Willy, the Black Stallion, etc., that blend the fantastic with the real and where the young main characters find their courage to perform selfless acts. From the beginning, I've seen the Moon Singer trilogy as films because of the many special effects (e.g., a supernaturally-powered clipper ship made of crystal and gold that can sail through the cosmos as well as on the sea) written into the books. In fact, I invite your artistic readers to illustrate and animate my books to their heart's content; maybe we can collaborate on an illustrated version of my books, or on a video!  Any producers out there?

SP: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?   
BR: The Secrets of the Moon Singer books are short, and quick reads.  But, they take readers on a continuing journey through the lives of several key characters that they can relate to emotionally. Their travails, challenges, joys, and moments of insightful discovery are those that most people have encountered in their own lives, while the story environments are those of fantasy.
The main focus of the trilogy is selfless love and being of service to others.  For David, his quest is always to save a life that means more to him than his own, and in doing so he delves into questions about his life purpose and soul mission, while also dealing with very real day-to-day problems.
I'm not quite sure what age group my books are for.  I'm hoping they will bridge the generations from kids to adults.  So, I didn't write "down" to any age group.  I was a voracious reader, especially as a child, and many of the books I read went far beyond just fare for kids my age - great American plays, philosophy, psychology, poetry - so I believe even young kids can absorb sophisticated language.  I loved reading and finding new words, circling them as I read then looking them up in the dictionary and finding new nuggets of language gold.  I still do this.

SP: Since this is part of a Trilogy, can you tell us anything about the next adventure and will David be the main character?
BR: David Nickerson is the main character in all the books.  Adventure Two: "The War Chamber" has David trying to process the phenomenal experiences of Adventure One. As captain of the mystical sailing ship Moon Singer, he had saved his sister's life on the Island of Darkness, and could miraculously hear what others could not. Now, as his home town argues over how to revive a stagnant economy, David despairs that those miracles have dissipated.  He is just as deaf as before, his sister's paralysis has returned, and anguish over his mother's death is overwhelming.  At her gravesite, determined to communicate with her through his sacred crystal, he is instead transported to a strange city caught in a time warp between a hi-tech, militant past and a peaceful, simple way of life. He encounters a revered woman who becomes a surrogate mother to him and helps him understand how his deafness and his mother's karmic mission are intertwined.
Throughout all the twists and turns of plot and story, which become more sophisticated and complex with each adventure, David struggles with the "reason" for his deafness, as well as how he and his family deal with the realities of it.  Adventure Three: The Wind Rose, is into technology, Apocalyptic fears, world-wide disasters, and the power of music as a force of nature.  Ultimately, David learns he must make an extremely difficult decision:  shall he have that operation that will restore his hearing or...? Well, I won't spoil the surprise ending, for I believe it is yet to take me to places even I do not anticipate....
For more information about the author or to purchase the books:

Take Shelter (2011) movie with Deaf Actress

TakeShelter (2011)
Director: Jeff Nichols

Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.

Main character Curtis begins to have bad dreams and hallucinations about an impending story which turns people into zombie-like versions of themselves. Because of a family history of schizophrenia, he seeks medical help and counseling. Simultaneously, he begins rebuilding, and adding to, the storm shelter in the family’s backyard. The cost of the storm shelter is high especially for a working class family who has major medical bills coming due to their Deaf daughter’s Cochlear Implant surgery.

All members of the family use American Sign Language (ASL) and even use the term correctly. The mother signs more fluently while the father forgets signs and asks for assistance. The Deaf daughter is played by Deaf actress, Tova Stewart of Ohio. The young girl received the part after the film’s producer  reached out to the Ohio School for the Deaflooking for a young deaf female student. Tova’s parents are deaf.

Take Shelter premiered in January 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival.  It was also screened in May 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the 50th Critics' Week Grand Prix.

Interview with author Michael Thal

Good-ByeTchaikovsky (March 2012) by Michael Thal
Publisher Royal Fireworks Press
Grade:5- 10

Leo Tolstoy writes, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This may be exactly how both author Michael Thal and his main character, David Rothman feel. Both are affecting others’ lives with their work, and both did not actively decide to make a change to themselves. Rather, one was decided for them. Author Michael Thal lost his hearing in his forties as a result of a virus and writes, "I was motivated to write Good-Bye Tchaikovsky as a way to heal the pain of my hearing loss”. Thal was a teacher for decades before becoming a writer. Already having touched so many, this book is another opportunity to bring a message to young people. In Good-Bye Tchaikovsky, Deaf Character David is already going through the change of adolescence and the change of receiving world-wide attention; he must now confront his own body that has changed literally overnight. As a violin virtuoso, his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto draws attention from the masses including the Queen of England. On his twelfth birthday, David loses his hearing. Both Thal and his character David could have pitied themselves but instead, they both rose to the meet the changes in their lives.

Below is my interview with author Michael Thal who describes with experiences with his book Goodbye Tchaikovsky.  
(To the right is a picture of the author from last summer while visiting Virginia City, Nevada. Don't worry; he isn't really a jailbird!)

SP: What made you decide to make David's character deaf or to even include a deaf character especially one who could use sign language?
MT: David Rothman, the POV character in Goodbye Tchaikovsky, appeared in the opening scene of the book as he played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto before a sell-out crowd. The 11 year-old child prodigy was one of the best violinists in the world. The morning of his twelfth birthday the boy woke up to a profound silence. I chose a hearing child turned deaf for my book’s novel because I wanted to explore the emotional effect of hearing loss on an adolescent. I lost my hearing at the age of 44. I was curious what the reaction would have been to a pre-teen and the affect of deafness on his development during his teen years.

SP: How does your experience as a sixth grade teacher help you write a book for a young audience?       
MT: I taught elementary and middle school for 28 years. I understand the age group. This comprehension helped me as an author to develop realistic dialogue and emotional reactions to character life problems.

SP: What type of research did you do for the book to make your characters realistic? 
MT: Before I even had the idea for the book, I studied ASL at a Tripod program in Burbank, California. After the program was terminated I attended ASL classes at Pierce College, in Los Angeles. My knowledge of sign was a huge help when I spent a few days observing classrooms at the Marlton School. This is a school for the Deaf and hard of hearing in Los Angeles where ASL is the primary language used in the classroom. My friend and former ASL teacher, Stephanie Johnson, was kind enough to let me watch her class and introduced me to other teachers at the school so I could observe their classes, too. I also interviewed people who attended Deaf schools as adolescents. My interview with Deaf actor/director Troy Kotsur was a huge help.

SP: Since you have experienced some hearing loss, have you learned any American Sign Language? 
MT: Just for the record, I am legally deaf in my right ear and have a profound loss in my left. After the doctor told me I had a progressive hearing loss, it seemed to me a no brainer to start learning ASL. I’ve been studying the language for the last 18 years. Though I’m close to fluent, I am slow at reading finger spellings and Deaf friends have to slow down a bit. However, I find that I understand them better than hearing people, even with my hearing aides on. I am so glad I learned and encourage all hard-of-hearing people to do the same.

SP: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book? 
MT: I want readers to understand how lonely it is to be deaf in a hearing world. I want them to realize how important it is to look at a Deaf or hard of hearing person and speak slowly. None of us want to be dismissed with comments like, “Oh, never mind.” Or “It isn’t important.” For a time, my own brother wouldn’t talk to me because he didn’t want to repeat himself. Hearing loss is an invisible disability. I hope Goodbye Tchaikovsky takes away some of the screens and adds texture to the problem.

SP: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time? 
MT: I hope they enjoy themselves and provide me with feedback. I encourage them to visit my website at or e-mail me at Perhaps they will also enjoy my novel, The Legend of Koolura, a story about a sixth-grade girl who has very cool powers, which she uses to battle a stalker determined on destroying her and her friends.