Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Silence in the Wild: A Summer in Maine (2014) by Dale C Jellison

Silence in the Wild: A Summer in Maine (2014) by Dale C Jellison

Paperback: 294 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (February 12, 2014) Language: English
ISBN-10: 149485368X
ISBN-13: 978-1494853686

Book description
In this coming-of-age adventure set in 1986 about a deaf boy, life hasn't been the same for twelve-year-old Jake Graham since his beloved grandfather passed away. After a rough school year and constant harassment by bullies, Jake wishes he could spend his entire summer with his grandfather again, but instead, his parents are sending him to a boys' camp in Maine.
  Jake arrives at Camp Pawtuckaway feeling nervous and uncertain about being outside his comfort zone, but all is forgotten after he meets Paddy, a twelve-year-old from Ireland. The friendship between the two grows as Paddy helps Jake adjust to life in the outdoors. They share their past with each other and wonder if fate brought them together to be brothers.
  The boys' summer takes an unexpected turn when Paddy is rushed to the hospital after a freak accident, then Jake gets left behind in a remote area of Maine. Alone and completely deaf, after his hearing aid stops working, Jake must make his way through the rugged wilderness in hopes that someone will find him before it's too late. Along the way, a mystical creature follows him, and Jake's life is forever changed.

Freak City (2014) by Kathrin Schrocke

I came across this book this morning and my first thought was how in the world am I going to contact and interview this author considering that it's translated from German.  Fortunately, I have a colleague/ good friend fluent in German who just may be willing to help out.

The Kirkus Review describes it as "Hormones, hearing and “Deafness 101” collide to form Schrocke’s offbeat novel." The review doesn't seem very positive noting, "numerous clichés and awkward slang, perhaps a result of translation from German, frequently distract from the narrative" but the Amazon reader review was strong calling it a "must read". 

Freak City (2014) by Kathrin Schrocke; translated from German by Tammi Reichel
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Scarlet Voyage (January 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1623240050
ISBN-13: 978-1623240059

Book description:
Mika's heart is broken, until he sees Leah. A smart, beautiful, and brave girl, Leah has been deaf since birth. When Mika meets her for the first time, he feels something electric. They cannot communicate much, so Mika decides to take a sign language course. His family and friends are skeptical, and Mika soon grows weary, too. The world of deaf people is so much different than his own. Can their two worlds intersect? There is also Sandra, Mika’s ex-girlfriend, who he cannot seem to get over. But Mika cannot shake that Leah has captured his heart. . . . Author Kathrin Schrocke tells the story of two teens and their tender, quirky, and extraordinary love.

About the author:
Kathrin Schrocke was born in 1975 in Augsburg, Germany. She studied German and psychology in Bamberg. Schrocke has received numerous prizes and nominations for her work, including the Nettetaler Youth Book Prize (2010), and the nomination for the German Youth Literature Prize (2011) and the Hansjörg-Martin Prize for the best German Youth Thriller (2010). She lives in Berlin and is the author of numerous stories and plays, as well as novels for children and young adults.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Interview with Esty Schachter, author of Waiting for a Sign (November 2014)

Siblings Shelly and Ian (Deaf Character) used to be close but when Ian leaves to attend the Hawthorne School for the Deaf life changes dramatically for both of them. Shelly feels like her brother has traded in their family for his new Deaf friends; Ian finally feels free to pick the friends with whom he wants to hang out. But he comes home angry and lashes out at Shelly and their parents who also seem somewhat befuddled… that is until they all discover that Ian's misplaced anger has a great deal to do with budget cuts and the possible closing of Hawthorne. Ian isn’t taking the news very well.  But that isn't the only reason he's angry.

In his defense, Ian misses his family too. At Hawthorne, he lives in an environment where he has access to all of the conversations-- the jokes, the serious discussion, true family time. Coming home to a family dinner table that includes parents forgetting to sign and talking in front of him is more than frustrating. After all, even Shelly’s best friend Lisa has started learning sign language so that she can chat with Ian.

In one of the conversations between the siblings:

“…I saw you signing ‘bike’ and ‘borrow’ and ‘flat,’ but I had to guess the other words from looking at your mouth.” Ian sighed. “I knew what you were trying to tell me, but it made me mad. It always makes me mad. It happens all the time. You do it; Mon and Dad do it.” Ian ran his hands through his hair. He looked me in the eye. “I want to know what you’re saying. I want to know all of what you tell me”(23-24).

I'm sure many readers will relate with this. And notice the italics! This note to readers (picture below) makes me so happy!
Waiting for a Sign
But back to the story...
Hawthorne has a poetry night which is going to allow the students to shine and show off how beneficial their school experience is. Ian isn’t so nervous about sharing his poem but he’s not so sure that his parents are going to understand him considering there won’t be voice interpreting of the ASL poetry.  Sorry, you're going to have to read the book to find out what happens.

Schachter’s Waiting for a Sign emphasizes the need for clear communication even when we share the same language. This isn’t a preachy book about what it’s like to be a Deaf teen. Schachter includes various story lines that will resonate with many readers; and, she incorporates a great deal of Deaf history spotlighting renowned poets such as Clayton Valli and Patrick Graybill. There is a storyline that makes me think of those library suggested future book reading lists… The ones that read like: So if you like Switched at Birth, you’re going to want to check out this book. (Although it does have less teen drama and angst than ABC Family shows seem to feature… but anyway, you get the picture.) 

This is a complex short novel you'll want to finish in one sitting. Ian and his peers don’t want Hawthorne to close and they’re going to try to save it at all costs! But how will Shelly support her brother? And why didn’t she invite her best friend Lisa to Ian’s performance? You’re going to need to put this on your reading list!  
Waiting for a Sign by Esty Schachter
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Lewis Court Press (November 26, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0692286985
ISBN-13: 978-0692286982

Check out my interview with author Esty Schachter below.
Author and family at her older son's high school graduation
ES: First off, I’m hearing, and Esty is my full name (a lot of people ask.) I’m a clinical social worker, and live in Ithaca, New York with my husband, Jon, and two sons, Elie and Ari. My first book, Anya’s Echoes, combined the story of how my aunt was saved by strangers during the Holocaust with a present-day bullying situation.

SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character that uses sign language?
ES: My husband often quotes someone in an interview talking about how some songs were written, especially in the 60’s, by people who had ‘something to say.’ When I thought about writing a novel during a year we spent away from home on sabbatical, I decided that my years of connection to the Deaf community had given me ‘something to say.’ I wanted to include multiple deaf characters, and address some of the complex issues I had observed as well as show real people with strengths, flaws, and unfolding self-awareness.

SP: Would you share your connection to deaf individuals or to the Deaf community?
ES: I started trying to learn sign language in elementary school, and continued in high school and then college. My first job out of college was as the secretary for the Massachusetts State Association of the Deaf, which at the time only had two full-time employees. That job was a gift in many ways, and enabled me to be mentored by Steve Nover and also have access to amazing social, cultural and educational opportunities in the Deaf community. From there I went on to earn a Masters in Social Work from Boston College, where my training was in working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals and families. When I moved to Ithaca, I was lucky to arrive at the same time a regional preschool program for deaf kids was started through a local agency, and I became their school social worker, following them (literally!) for years.

SP: What research did you do to make your deaf characters believable?
ES: I called upon a number of memories from MSAD times, as well as my connections in the Deaf community all these years.

SP: What do you hope young people learn from this story?
ES: I think it’s a story about finding one’s inner strengths and confidence, and how sometimes our relationships with people close to us help us get there. It’s also about the fact that feelings cause us to behave the way we do, and by looking at and sharing those feelings, people can make positive change.

SP: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?
ES: You too have something to say. Everyone has a story. Finding the way to express and share your ideas and interests can be very satisfying, and fun. It might take time to figure out what your way is, but that’s okay. It’s a worthwhile adventure.

Friday, December 05, 2014

New Publication- Waiting for a Sign (November 2014) by Esty Schachter

Waiting for a Sign by Esty Schachter
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Lewis Court Press (November 26, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0692286985
ISBN-13: 978-0692286982
Book Description:
Shelly and Ian used to be close, but after Ian leaves home to attend the Hawthorne School for the Deaf, Shelly feels abandoned, and the two drift apart.
When Ian returns home with news that the future of Hawthorne is in jeopardy, Shelly isn’t sure she wants him back. And Ian, who has enjoyed living with students and staff who sign all the time, feels angry when his family forgets to do the same.
An explosive argument that could drive brother and sister further apart actually offers hope for reconciliation—a hope that grows as Shelly’s spirited best friend, Lisa, helps strengthen their bond.
The siblings grow closer still when they find themselves coping with an unexpected tragedy. To fully heal her relationship with Ian, however, Shelly needs to acknowledge and understand why Hawthorne—and access to the Deaf community—is so important to him. To do so, she’ll need to take action and stop waiting for a sign.

Written by clinical social worker Esty Schachter, Waiting for a Sign celebrates the beauty and power of Deaf culture, offering readers an opportunity for insight and understanding.

Forthcoming publication by Deborah Lytton- Silence in 2015

Silence by Deborah Lytton
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (January 6, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609079450
ISBN-13: 978-1609079451

Book Description:
Stella was born to sing. Someday Broadway. Even though she is only a sophomore at a new high school, her voice has given her the status as a cool kid. But then a tragic accident renders her deaf. She cannot hear herself sing not to mention speak. She cannot hear anything. Silence. What happens when everything you have dreamed of and hoped for is shattered in a single moment?
Enter Hayden, the boy with blonde curls who stutters. He is treated like an outcast because he is not normal. And, yet, Stella feels an attraction to him that she cannot explain. As Hayden reaches out to help Stella discover a world without sound his own tragic past warns him to keep a distance. But their connection is undeniable. Can the boy who stutters and the girl whose deaf find a happily-ever-after?
SILENCE is a story of friendship and hope with a lesson that sometimes it takes a tragedy to help us find beauty and love in unexpected places.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Invincible by Cecily Anne Pateron-- Review & Challenge!

In my interview with Cecily Anne Paterson, she explained, “I certainly didn’t set out to write a book about a deaf girl. It all came about because I needed a plot device...” I adored her first book, Invisible. Although a plot point, she offers a dynamic character; in numerous ways, my own inner 13-year-old can relate to Jazmine’s feelings of isolation and how those middle years of adolescence can truly be tough.

In her sequel, Paterson doesn’t need a plot device. Jazmine, a 14-yr-old girl who is deaf and fluent in Auslan, is an established character. When I review books with deaf characters, I highlight aspects connected to the character’s deafness and I notate aspects that I believe are realistic to actual Deaf individuals, not just characters in a book (e.g. does the communication appear real, etc.; and, I notice facets where I believe the author missed her mark. Looking over my notes, I’m noticing more about traditional character development and plot. I have passages that I enjoyed highlighted, which I plan to go back to refer. In fact, I only have one critical remark for Ms. Paterson but I feel I should save that until the end. You know, for suspense. She's been keeping me up late at night reading so I think it’s only fair for me to hold out for a few paragraphs.

In book 2, the days of being friendless and alone seem to be behind Jazmine. She has her best friend Gabby, her boyfriend Liam, and her “mum” whom she’s finally confiding in. But life happens and people change… and all of a sudden Jazmine’s paternal grandmother is in the picture. Book 2 tackles numerous relationships. Because of this, I actually think this book can be recommended to a wider range of readers. 

There is a return to the garden metaphor from book 1. Jazmine’s secret garden is growing and now she has a fellow gardener who is helping her. She’s also discovering that she likes vanilla ice cream no matter what Liam says! (Sorry y’all, while I love that Jazmine is following her own ice-cream-preferred- flavor-heart, I’m a bit on Team Chocolate with Liam… but really this is just an aside and now I want ice cream).

Miss Fraser is away so who in the world will Jazmine be able to confide in? There’s even significance in a boat! I’m not sure how Paterson packed everything in 233 pages. I finished the book within the hour and I’m excited, hopeful, and a bit sad. There are several predictable moments you’ll cheer on Jazmine but there are also some surprises. Dag, Ms. Paterson! Really? But, don’t worry; there is also an ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS section where she answers some of the really tough parts of the book and explains why she does what she does. But don’t read that until after you read the book!

I’m personally taking away quotes from various characters. Where have they been all my life? I’d love to note them here but I’m afraid they’re just too revealing… and I really think you should go out and read this book. She didn’t make me write this (twice). In full disclosure, I bought her first book and she gave book 2 to me as a gift (you can purchase this book as a digital download for $1.50 from Amazon!) I honestly feel this is one of the best books I have seen come across this blog. Ms. Paterson was so gracious that she even offered to be interviewed again. I appreciate that but I prefer to add my critical remark :)

In the ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, Paterson writes that she never planned to write a sequel but she received letters from fans wanting one. That being said, I’m making a public request for a book 3. I’m sorry but I want to know what happens to 15-yr-old Jazmine. I don’t think we’re done with her story just yet. I’d love to see Gabby, Liam, family members, and even Angela back but more importantly, what’s next for Jazmine?!?

My slightly critical remark is more of an encouraging challenge. Throughout my research on Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature, again and again I find that readers prefer multiple deaf characters within the story. Not only do I want a book 3 but I want the third book in this series to include at least another deaf character.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Forthcoming publication INVINCIBLE by Cecily Anne Paterson

In September, I interviewed Cecily Anne Paterson regarding her novel, Invisible. In just over a week (November 26, 2014), the sequel Invincible will be released.

“When I was smaller I thought that at some point in my life I’d reach the top of the mountain. You know, the place where you’re finally happy. The night I got a standing ovation in the school play was the night I got to the top. The trouble was, no one ever told me that I’d have to hike back down.”

Finally, everything is going right for 13 year-old Jazmine Crawford. After years of being invisible, she’s making friends, talking to her mum and hanging out with Liam. But what happens when everyone around her changes? Will getting back in touch with her grandma help her cope or just make things worse? And who’s going to finally give arrogant Angela what she deserves?

is the much-anticipated sequel to Invisible (2009), a semi-finalist in the 2014 Amazon Book of the Year Award.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interview with D.S. Elstad, author of The Forest of Aisling

The Forest of Aisling (The Willow Series Book 1) by D.S. Elstad 
Publisher: Pepper Publishing; 1 edition (December 4, 2013) 
Print Length: 441 pages 
Reading level: YA Literature/ Teen Literature 

Willow Whelan began having mysterious dreams about a month before the story begins. Her mother, born on a reservation and part of the Lakota tribe of North Dakota, explains Ihan’bla, a ritual or vision quest that some Lakota have in the form of dreams. 

Of course, two months earlier Willow began attending a new school, The Santa Fe Fine Arts Academy, so there is a great deal going on in her life. All of this is seemingly put on hold when Willow travels to Ireland with her father to the funeral of the paternal grandmother she has never met. However, the dreams continue. Willow discovers forest of my aisling, “an Irish word meaning vision or dream” written in faded handwriting on family papers; she begins to realize that this isn't a likely coincidence. 

Willow meets her second cousins Quinn and Kelleigh and their friend, “the tall boy” Bram (Deaf Character) who readers later learn “lost his hearing when he was eleven after having meningitis”. He is also named after one of my favorite writers. Bram, who is fluent in Irish Sign Language, often communicates with Willow as most teens do through text message, writing, and even speech. A few of the other characters are also fluent in sign language but I don’t want to give away any surprises. I think readers will really enjoy this character. Bram is part of the adventure; the story isn’t about his deafness.  

There are apparitions, shape-shifting, Celtic mythology, what the characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer would call “The Big Bad”, secret pendants, atypical inclement weather and a bit of teen romance. All of these issues swirl around Willow as she and her family must uncover the mysteries of her grandmother’s death and why exactly the body doesn’t appear to be decomposing as it should. 

This was a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading. To write that there were surprises would be an understatement. I couldn’t want to discuss some of the topics with the author.  

Read my interview with D.S. Elstad below! 

a caricature of D.S. Elstad drawn by the author's daughter
SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character that uses sign language? (especially Irish Sign Language which I have to admit I don't know anything about!)
DSE: The inspiration for Bram came from my experiences with my husband and his family.  My husband is hearing but grew up with deaf parents and a deaf brother and always felt like sign language was his first language.  When we met I had very limited contact with the deaf.  Right away I was welcomed into his family and encouraged to learn sign (which I’m still trying to master after many years!)  My husband and his mother were both teachers and were very passionate about bridging the communication gap between the deaf and hearing.  Their passion for the language and the beauty of the language itself impressed me so much that when I sat down to write The Forest of Aisling I knew I had to include a deaf character.  Since the story takes place in Ireland that led me to do research on sign language of that country.

SP: What research did you do to make your character and your deaf characters interaction with non-signing characters believable?
DSE: Research for interaction between the hearing characters and Bram was pretty easy.  My husband is involved in the deaf community and many times I’d go with him to different functions.  It always impressed me how many Deaf people would be willing to teach me sign and how patient they would be with my attempts at it.  When signing wasn’t working a pen and paper would do the trick.    Real-life attempts at communication were transferred to Bram because of those experiences.

SP: Without giving away any of the plot (this will be tricky), can you discuss Bram's special abilities?
DSE: Bram finds out mid-way through the book about a special ability he has inherited.  I wanted this to be more about who he becomes and less about who he is.  The ability Bram discovers about himself is something ancient and is only used during certain times.  I wanted to stay away from giving Bram an ability that compensated for his deafness and instead have his ability tie in directly to what he’s destined for.  It was important for me to get the point across that Bram not only accepts his deafness, he chooses to learn sign language and steers away from a cochlear implant because he believes being deaf is as much a part of who he is than any other quality he possesses.

SP: What do you hope that readers will take away or learn from The Forest of Aisling?
DSE: I hope readers will feel uplifted and entertained.  I hope they’ll be able to relate to the characters in the book and realize that no matter how different we may seem we are all very similar.  We have the same hopes and dreams and desires.  

SP: What advice do you have for young readers?
DSE: The best advice I’ve ever received and I’m sure many young readers have already heard is to read, read, read.  There’s so much great literature out there that everyone should be able to find a book/books that interest and inspire them.  Then after you’ve read a lot go ahead and write your own story.  We all have a story to tell and the world needs to read yours!

SP: Anything you'd like to add... such as maybe a bit about sequels?
DSE: There are three books in The Willow Series.  The first one, The Forest of Aisling, dealt with Willow’s Irish heritage and explored Irish Mythology.  Book Two, The White Cliffs of Owanka, follows Willow back home to New Mexico where she learns more about her Native American roots and the Legend of the Skinwalker.  The third sequel will bring the key characters together again for a final confrontation with sinister powers.   Book Three will also delve more deeply into deaf culture through Bram and a journey he must take.

Follow the link below to purchase:

Thursday, October 09, 2014

New Publication (Cross-Over): Finding Zoe: A Deaf Woman's Story of Identity, Love, and Adoption

Finding Zoe: A Deaf Woman's Story of Identity, Love, and Adoption  by Gail Harris and Brandi Rarus with a foreword by Marlee Matlin
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: BenBella Books (October 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1940363225

Book Description
At just a few months old, Zoe was gradually losing her hearing. Her adoptive parents loved her—yet agonized—feeling they couldn’t handle raising a Deaf child. Would Zoe go back into the welfare system and spend her childhood hoping to find parents willing to adopt her? Or, would she be the long-sought answer to a mother’s prayers?
Brandi Rarus was just 6 when spinal meningitis took away her hearing. Because she spoke well and easily adjusted to lip reading, she was mainstreamed in school and socialized primarily in the hearing community. Brandi was a popular, happy teen, but being fully part of every conversation was an ongoing struggle. She felt caught between two worlds—the Deaf and the hearing.
In college, Brandi embraced Deaf Culture along with the joys of complete and effortless communication with her peers. Brandi went on to become Miss Deaf America in 1988 and served as a spokesperson for her community. It was during her tenure as Miss Deaf America that Brandi met Tim, a leader of the Gallaudet Uprising in support of selecting the university’s first Deaf president. The two went on to marry and had three hearing boys—the first non-deaf children born in Tim’s family in 125 years.
Brandi was incredibly grateful to have her three wonderful sons, but couldn’t shake the feeling something was missing. She didn’t know that Zoe, a six-month-old Deaf baby girl caught in the foster care system, was desperately in need of a family unafraid of her different needs. Brandi found the answer to her prayers when fate brought her new adopted daughter into her life.
Set against the backdrop of Deaf America, Finding Zoe is an uplifting story of hope, adoption, and everyday miracles.

About the Author
Deaf since age six after contracting spinal meningitis, Brandi Rarus could speak and read lips, but felt caught between the deaf and hearing world--fitting into neither. When she realized you don't need to hear to live a fulfilled life, she became empowered and was chosen as Miss Deaf America. From signing the National Anthem at a Chicago Cubs game to speaking at corporate conferences, Brandi traveled the country speaking out for deaf children and building awareness of what it means to be Deaf. She married Tim Rarus, an advocate for Deaf people whose work inspired the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Together, they have paved the way to bring new technologies that promote equal access in communication. Brandi and Tim live in Austin, Texas, with their four children: three hearing boys and the youngest, Zoe, a Deaf girl they adopted. Today, Brandi and her family are tirelessly dedicated to ensuring all children find their rightful place in our world. Award-winning writer and teacher of the intuitive process, Gail Harris has experienced the joy of adopting a child. She brings her knowledge of the adoption process and in-vitro fertilization to this book, along with her ability to articulate from a hearing person's perspective what is fascinating about the Deaf experience. In the four years that it took to write Finding Zoe, Gail conducted more than 75 interviews to uncover. Gail is the author of Your Heart Knows the Answer and a featured blogger on several popular parenting blogs. She lives with her husband and son in Framingham, MA.

New Publication (Cross-Over novel)- Talk to Me: A Love Story in Any Language by Paul Simmons

Not explicitly an adolescent literature piece but perhaps suitable for a cross-over novel for mature teens.

Talk to Me: A Love Story in Any Language by Paul Simmons

Paperback: 330 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Second edition (August 22, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1500756342

Book Description
Despite being deaf as a result of a fireworks explosion, CEO of a St. Louis non-profit company, Noel Richardson, expertly navigates the hearing world. What some view as a disability, Noel views as a challenge—his lack of hearing has never held him back. It also helps that he has great looks, numerous university degrees, and full bank accounts. But those assets don’t define him as a man who longs for the right woman in his life. Deciding to visit a church service, Noel is blind-sided by the most beautiful and graceful Deaf interpreter he’s ever seen. Mackenzie Norton challenges him on every level through words and signing, but as their love grows, their faith is tested. When their church holds a yearly revival, they witness the healing power of God in others. Mackenzie has faith to believe that Noel can also get in on the blessing. Since faith comes by hearing, whose voice does Noel hear in his heart, Mackenzie or God's?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

'El Deafo' by Cece Bell-- Review written for the Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/review-el-deafo-by-cece-bell/2014/09/23/947aab00-402e-11e4-b0ea-8141703bbf6f_story.htmlThe Washington Post
Review: ‘El Deafo’ by Cece Bell

(click above to be taken to the Washington Post homepage to read my review)

Children's author and illustrator's new book El Deafo is a memoir that covers some pretty serious issues that can be found in other autobiographies written by deaf and hard of hearing authors. If you're not familiar with graphic novels, don't let the layout and pictures mislead you; they can contain some heavy content. As always, I recommend that you screen the book before recommending it to a young person.

For more information about the author, visit her blog.