“Hard to think that there might someday be a time when everyone could go back to ordinary things, like mending a torn undershirt.” page 22
Beast of Stone (Wing & Claw #3) by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Masden. Harper, HarperCollins, New York, 2018, my edition 2019. MG fantasy, 360 pages. Lexile: 700L . AR Level: 5.3 (worth 9.0 points) . NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for previous books in the series.
Raffa finds himself imprisoned and separated from his friends – even worse, his parents are frustratingly close but in danger. Feeling alone except for his beloved bat friend, Raffa wonders how he could possibly escape in time to prevent the Chancellor from using botanicals and wild animals to attack the people of Obsidian, let alone figure out why she’s doing such evil deeds.
Linda Sue Park sets the standard high for what a fantasy trilogy should be. The first book was very good, the second stronger than most mid-series installments. I didn’t love that Cavern of Secrets ended with a cliffhanger, but after reading this book I can understand why Park ended at that point.
“Raffa couldn’t help laughing. He didn’t know why he felt so joyful; there was nothing the bat could do to help. Maybe, he thought, maybe people just don’t like to be alone when they’re in trouble.” page 55
Cavern of Secrets (Wing and Claw #2) by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Madsen. Harper, HarperCollins, New York, 2017. MG fantasy, 312 pages + excerpt. Lexile: 700L . AR Level: 5.3 (worth 8.0) . NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the previous book in the series.
Having narrowly survived the adventures of the last book, Raffa and his human and animal friends now have important decisions to make about what to do next – about the Chancellor and her animal captives, about the families waiting for them, and about their own relationships.
Park wisely skips over the grim struggle for survival over the winter the three children spent in the mountains and opens her story as most of the trio’s animal menagerie are awakening from hibernation. Echo does not, which propels Raffa to consider returning home.
I was very impressed with how Park wrote Garith’s hearing loss. At the end of the previous book, we weren’t certain yet how permanent it was, but now we know that it’s long-term if not forever, which means writing a newly Deaf character. And Park does that amazingly well, from Raffa’s irritatingly slow and overly loud talking, to Kuma’s recognition that Garith can still do everything but hear and needs to have tasks and agency just like before.
While I like to see Deaf characters in books, a few points in this book – especially the use of SimCom – felt awkward and forced.
Where do all my conversational essays come from? Reviews that have gotten far too long, of course. Yesterday my review of a novel called Cattywampus went up (or should have, I’m writing this well before posting).
Overall I enjoyed the novel (see the review for more details) but the ASL aspect sometimes felt off in ways that were hard to describe. Talking about it took up way too much of the review, so here’s a separate post for those who wish to delve deeper into this aspect of the book. First I wish to give a major disclaimer that I personally am not Deaf nor Appalachian so it is very possible that I’ve gotten some aspects of this wrong. I do have deaf, Deaf, and hard of hearing friends and family, and am familiar with, although not fluent in, American Sign Language.
If you are yourself or know of reviewers who discuss this topic from either of those standpoints, or from the intersex view which I don’t get into here but discuss in the main review (as it is a more major part of the novel) please share those reviews! Since Disability in Kidlit is now ended, I have been hoping for Sharon Pajka to review this book on her blog, but haven’t seen a post about it yet.
“The weight of Delpha’s secret tugged at her gut, promising to rearrange her life nine ways to Sunday if she’d let it.” page 5
Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo. Scholastic Press, New York, 2020. MG fantasy, 280 pages. Lexile: 810L . AR Level: not yet leveled
Delpha’s strict mother’s biggest rule is a total ban on magic. But as they sink deeper into poverty, Delpha is ready to break any rule to prevent more of her beloved grandmother’s treasures from being sold off as tourist souvenirs.
Since finding out she’s intersex, Katybird has desperately wanted magic to prove she’s the successor to her family’s magical traditions. When that longed-for Hearn magic doesn’t manifest as planned, she’s desperate for a magical fix – even from a McGill like Delpha.
Together the girls unleash a terrible curse – threatening not just their families, but the whole valley.
“… but our whole family lives in New Jersey now. So we are really, truly Americans – North, South, and Central!” page 7
Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown, illustrated by Christine Almeda.
Scholastic, New York, 2018.
Realistic fiction, 108 pages.
Lexile: 690L .
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: This is the first book in the Sarai series.
Sarai Gonzalez is awesome. She can do anything she sets her mind to, right? But when her grandparents are about to lose their home, can she solve that problem?
I absolutely adored this book and am looking forward to reading more in the series. Sarai is like a modern-day, Latina Pollyanna without the syrupy sweetness. She radiates positivity and a can-do attitude, but also makes mistakes and sometimes meets problems she can’t solve (yet).
A large part of my love for this book was due to the incredibly appealing artwork, which brings me to the biggest problem, which is that the artist is not appropriately credited. Christine Almeda’s name appears only on the back cover and copyright page, and that in small print. Since this is a book with two co-authors (teen Sarai on whose real life the series is based and experienced author Monica Brown), it would be easy for young readers to mistake the cover credits for author and illustrator.
First, I want to apologize. I’ve written in the past about the unique Deaf culture that formed on what is known to many people as Martha’s Vineyard, and even reviewed a book about it. But it never occurred to me to also inform about the indigenous peoples of the area.
I’m sorry for my thoughtless erasure, and would like to point all my readers whether hearing, HH, or Deaf, to this website which will tell you a little more about some of the specific places on the island, their names and significance to the Wampanoag people. Or this page tells more about the Aquinnah Wampanoag who lived on the island then and still live there today.
For young people, here is a video from Scholastic with some modern Wampanoag girls at the heritage site:
Here is another brief introduction for kids. These resources are produced from the Wampanoag Homesite associated with Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts.
The Wampanoag people are typically only mentioned by the rest of the country around Thanksgiving, and The Wampanoag Side of the Tale gives one woman’s opinions on the real story of the holiday.
When a slur about Julia’s best friend is left defacing the gym for far too long, she takes matters into her own hands, only to be ratted out. Now she’s navigating mainstream high school with an interpreter, trying to deal with friendship drama, her moms, and a growing tag war.
So often in a book about a Deaf person or one that has ASL, it’s shockingly clear the author has no experience around a deaf or hard of hearing person. For example, hearing authors often write Deaf characters as quiet. While some Deaf people might not like to vocalize among hearing people, I’ve yet to meet a Deaf person who is quiet.
In contrast, it’s clear from Whitney Gardner’s writing that she has spent substantial time in the American Deaf community, and has an understanding of ASL. Already on page 18, a character is stomping to get Julia’s attention, and the quote in the header comes from the same page. Gardner’s characters are Deaf, but they aren’t quiet, and she reflects that in a way only possible after learning about Deaf culture.
Some videos and links for Deaf History Month and hearing parents of Deaf children.
Welcome to the celebration of a month not many people know about!
First off, National Deaf History Month is not a month of the calendar year. Instead, it is the month between March 13th and April 15th, which commemorates several important milestones in American Deaf History.
This is separate from the international sign celebrations. In fact, the UN has chosen September 23rd, 2018 to be the first International Day of Sign Languages. Most countries celebrate Deaf Awareness month or International Week of the Deaf in September. In some areas, December is also an important month because of the birthdays of Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.
“The community’s attitude can be judged also from the fact that until I asked a direct question on the subject, most of my informants had never even considered anything unusual about the manner in which their deaf townsmen were integrated into the society.” p 51
Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard by Nora Ellen Groce, foreward by John W. M. Whiting.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985.
Academic nonfiction, 169 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
This classic work of American Deaf history shines a light on the isolated early community of Martha’s Vineyard, where a high rate of deafness resulted in normalization of sign language and an integration that the world could stand to learn from.
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, so was thrilled to be gifted a copy.
“I had never met a young person who was deaf or hard of hearing. At least so far as I knew.” p. 14
I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth.
Dutton, Penguin Group, Random House, 2014.
Adult nonfiction/memoir, 390 pages including index.
This is the story of one mother who discovered that her third son was deaf. Since she is a science journalist, this combines her family’s personal journal with research and interviews that she dove into in an attempt to better understand her son’s world.
I did purchase this book but at a steep discount since it had been remaindered. While most of my Deaf culture/ASL reading has been from an #ownvoice or sympathetic viewpoint, I was curious as to how hearing people with no exposure to deafness or Deaf Culture react.