Friday, December 21, 2012

Strong Deaf

Title: Strong Deaf
Author: Lynn McElfresh
Publisher: Namelos
Publication Date: December, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: Jade is the only hearing member in her family. Her older sister gets to go to the school for the deaf headed by her grandfather Gilbert, but Jade feels left out. Marla thinks her little sister is a pest and a brat. When they end up on the same softball team for the summer, neither is happy about it. Jade, the smallest player on the team, is assigned to be the catcher. It looks like it’s going to be a long season. As sisters, they are often at loggerheads, but as team mates Jade and Marla have to find ways to get along. In spite of their differences, they soon discover that each has a lot to offer the other.
What I Think: This little book packs a big punch - so much more than I was expecting! 
I am so glad that this book crossed my path so that I was able to read it. I have not read any other book that had the point of view that Lynn McElfresh chose for her novel. Although the theme seems classic- sibling rivalry, fitting in- it is much more than that. In most books when it is about sibling rivalry or fitting in, it is usually an underdog wanting to be "normal". In Jade's world, she is "normal" because she is hearing and allowed to go to public school and leave a regular life, but it makes her not fit in with her family who are prominent members of the Deaf community. 
     My favorite part of this book is that it is told from two perspectives, Marla and Jade, and each character has such a distinct voice. This may not seem unique, but it is when the author chooses to have his deaf character's written prose to be translated from American Sign Language (ASL). In ASL many linking and helping verbs are dropped and sentences and conversation sounds different than we are used to. What a great conversation started and it really helps us hearing readers to understand how sign language works. Although Jade's voice does sound younger than her 12 years, throughout the book her maturity evolves which coincides with the time of life she is supposed to be in. 
     This book will be a great addition to a classroom library, a class discussion about language or deafness, or will become very special in the hands of the right child. 
Read Together: Grades 4 to 8
Read Alone: Grades 5 to 10
Read With: Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Silent Star by Bill Wise, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Snatch of Text: "Coach W show fist together. That sign? Or teach hand on bat? Look coach hand. Look my hand. Look same. 
     Coach get wipe-off clipboard. Write big letter. CHOKE
     Choke? Put hand on throat. ...
     He write more on board. Choke up on bat.
     I eat bat? I choke? 
     Juniper see problem communication, come help. 
     She not know signs for words and must fingerspell all sentence. "Means move hand up on bat."
     OH! Why not write, Move hands up on bat
     Speech teacher say name for phrase like "choke up on bat" is idiom. Hearing use many idiom. Make confuse." (Marla, p. 45) 

"I moved my L hand an inch or so lower, closer to the center of my chin. "I think she could have figured out what I was saying by context. Lemon pie is my favorite, not lunch pie! If she's so grown up and smart, you'd think she could figure that out."" (Jane, p. 37) 

Mentor Text for: Idioms, Context, Grammar, Point of View, Voice, Theme
Writing Prompts: To help understand Marla and her friends and family better, find a page in your favorite book and then research sign language to determine who it would be translated into ASL. What words are removed? Is the message the same in ASL as it was in spoken English? 
Topics Covered: Deafness, Family, Deaf Community
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