“Wonderstruck” by Brian Selznick came out recently to rave reviews. It tells two stories about deaf people. Ben’s story, told through words, takes place in 1977. Rose’s story, told through pictures, takes place in 1927. The book moves back and forth between the two children, interweaving themes of family, deafness, and the interconnectedness of life. I enjoyed the book and it got me interested in looking at other books that include hard of hearing characters.
In Antony John’s book, “Five Flavors of Dumb“, Piper needs money for college. The band “Dumb” needs a manager to find them paying gigs. Sounds like a good combination. Here are the problems—Piper is hard of hearing and each member of the band has a distinct way of playing. Can Piper get the members to work together? Can she find somebody willing to pay them to play? Piper learns about Jimi Hendricks and Kurt Cobain in her quest to help Dumb. She changes and grows as she comes to terms with her deafness and her family.
Piper comes across as a genuine and complex person, not a character defined by a disability. She isn’t perfect, but she is likeable (most of the time.) Her family has faults and strengths. I liked the sense of humor throughout the book, but there were also moments of sadness. This is a book I definitely recommend, especially since it is a 2012-2013 Gateway Award Nominee!
The next book I tried was “The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin“by Josh Berk. Will Halpin is deaf, but he can read lips well, if he can see them. It is so irritating when people turn away when they are talking to him. Will has decided to leave his deaf school and try a mainstream high school. Told with humor from Will’s point of view, I enjoyed reading about his attempt at navigating high school. When a student dies on a field trip, Will and his friends try to figure out if it was an accident or murder. If murder, who did it? I didn’t enjoy this part as much, but if you like the “Hardy Boys” mysteries, you may enjoy this. Will is an interesting, multi-dimensional character.
It is interesting to note how few books have a deaf person as the main character. Here in Fulton with the Missouri School for the Deaf, we see a large number of people at the Callaway County Public Library who use sign language to communicate. I would like to see more contemporary fiction that includes realistic presentations of the deaf and hard of hearing.