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: