Elem. – Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion

Stocker, Shannon. Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion. Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth. Dial Books for Young Readers. 978-0-593-10969-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 2-4.

“This is a story of music…of obstacles…of hard work…[just] listen.” As a young child growing up in Scotland in the 1960s,  Evelyn Glennie loved listening to her father play the accordion and her mother the organ. By the time she was eight, she had developed a strong love of music and could even play the piano without sheet music. The girl’s life changed by age twelve when she lost her hearing. Glennie did not want to go to a school for the deaf, but instead dreamed of going to school to learn music. At her secondary school, the young musician discovered the wonders of percussion instruments.  Her music teacher encouraged her to “feel the music…resonate” throughout her entire body. Evelyn learned to listen in a different way by noting where the vibrations were felt in her body. She could feel in her legs the rumble of cars on the road and could even tune percussion by where she felt the vibrations. The percussionist was initially rejected  by the Royal Academy of Music, but insisted on a second audition and was admitted. All music schools then agreed to offer applicants with disabilities the opportunity to audition. As a student, Glennie performed her first solo and won competitions. Her career blossomed, as she recorded albums and performed on television. As the first full-time solo percussionist, Evelyn received two Grammy Awards and many other honors, including an O.B.E from Queen Elizabeth. Still performing today, often barefoot, this Scottish musician did not see her deafness as a limitation, but instead says that it  “made me a better listener.” Stocker describes her connection to Glennie in the author’s note.  Holzwarth’s vibrant drawings are done in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil and help bring the music alive. The illustrator depicts the kinetic energy of the sounds, which appear like waves emanating from the drums and mallets and enveloping the audience.

THOUGHTS: This wonderful picture book is a tribute to this amazing musician who overcame adversity to achieve her dream. It is a good choice for character trait units and for music teachers to inspire student musicians. A first purchase for elementary collections.

Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
92,921, 786.8092 Percussion

Tags: Picture Book, Biography, Musicians,  Percussionists, Perseverance, Deafness, Evelyn Glennie

Elem. – Friendship Goals (Series Fiction)

Reid, C.L. Friendship Goals (Emma Every Day). Picture Window Books, 2022. 978-1-515-87181-8. $16.99. 27 p. Grades K-2.

Emma is an 8 year old in third grade. She lives with her parents, has a brother named Jaden, and a best friend named Izzie. Emma is Deaf. She uses a Cochlear Implant and American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. Friendship Goals is the latest story in this 12 book Early Reader Chapter Book series. In this story Emma helps her friend Izzie practice soccer and ASL. Emma is good at soccer and is happy to help her friend work on her skills and build her confidence on the field. Each book includes a finger-spelling chart. Select words are spelled out in ASL letters (rebus style) throughout the books, and each book in the series includes a glossary of ASL signs pertaining to the story. Illustrated by Elena Aiello. 

THOUGHTS: This series of books is adorable. Emma encounters everyday childhood experiences and  situations. Sometimes Emma is able to participate alongside her peers without any assistance or accommodations. In some experiences Emma (along with her family, friends, and teachers), needs to problem solve in order to participate. A wonderfully diverse introduction to Deafness, Cochlear Implants, and American Sign Language for hearing students – and an everyday life mirror for students who are Deaf. 

Early Reader Chapter Book – Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem./MG – Set Me Free

LaZotte, Ann Clare. Set Me Free.  Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-74249-7  $18.99. 288 p. Grades 4-6.

Mary Lambert, a deaf girl living on Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1700’s, went through an unimaginable and traumatic ordeal when she was kidnapped years ago to be studied to determine the reason for her deafness. Settled back into her life on the Vineyard, Mary is longing for a more meaningful life. When a friend from years ago sends Mary a letter asking for her assistance helping a young deaf girl to learn to communicate, Mary is hesitant but excited for this new opportunity. However, when Mary arrives on the mainland to teach the girl, she finds that her new charge is imprisoned in the attic and treated horribly! Mary must muster up the courage and support to help free this girl from her circumstances. 

THOUGHTS: For those that loved Show Me a Sign, this is a must purchase. I did not love this installment as much as the first, but the history behind this time period is fascinating. Mary is truly a feminist and has no problem sharing her beliefs. She is a wonderful female literary icon.

Historical Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Abington SD

Mary Lambert, the deaf heroine from the fascinating early 1800’s island community of Martha’s Vineyard in Show Me A Sign, returns in this historical fiction book that is also rich with mystery and intrigue. Mary is eager to find her way in life and become a teacher, following in the footsteps of her own beloved teacher Mrs. Pye, but she is restless in her home community and feels as though she might have a calling in the wider world. Then, she receives a letter from Nora, a friend who helped her escape captors in her previous adventure, and decides to travel to Boston and help a young deaf girl who needs help learning to communicate through sign language. When she arrives, she finds the girl living in terribly cruel conditions and vows to help her not only learn to communicate, but also to return to her rightful family. With the help of friends both old and new, Mary bravely stands up for the rights of her young charge and demonstrates her conviction that people of all abilities deserve respect, dignity and opportunity in life.

THOUGHTS: This book is a wonderful testament to people with diverse abilities overcoming obstacles, especially those who deal with discrimination based on race, disability, gender, or for any other reason. Fans of Helen Keller’s story will also love this tale of a relationship that develops between a brave teacher and her bright but misunderstood student.

Historical Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

MG – Show Me a Sign

LeZotte, Ann Clare. Show Me a Sign. Scholastic Press, 2020. 269 p.  978-1-338-25581-2. $ 18.99. Grades 4-7.

Part Historical Fiction and part Thriller, this story is set in 1805 Martha’s Vineyard and follows 11 year old Mary. Mary is one of the many deaf inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard who descended from a small town in England. This genetic abnormality passes over some, yet inflicts others. However, life on the island is normal for the deaf and hearing alike. Most inhabitants speak their own form of island sign language as well as English. Life is normal until a young scientist from Boston comes to the island to study this abnormality. In trying to uncover the cause of deafness, Andrew captures Mary as his specimen and absconds with her to mainland Boston. Tortured by her captor, and realizing that she is different for the first time, Mary must find a way to escape and return to her family. Follow Mary as she escapes with the help of some Vineyard friends and finds her way home to her family and friends. The afterword includes a short history of deafness on Martha’s Vineyard, Sign Language, and the Wampanoag Tribe.

THOUGHTS: Such an interesting and unforgettable story that is rooted in history. LeZotte is deaf herself and does a fantastic job of bringing you into the world of Mary.

Historical Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

Tags: Deafness, Kidnapping, Sign Language