________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007


The Smart Princess and Other Deaf Tales.

Keelin Carey, Kristina Guévremont, Nicole Marsh, Nicholas Meloche-Kales & Déna Ruiter-Koopmans. Illustrated by Kelly C. Halligan, Eugeniu Televco & Colleen C. Turner.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2006.
48 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-896764-90-0.

Subject Headings:
Deaf-Juvenile Fiction.
Children's stories, Canadian (English).
Deaf, Writings of the, Canadian (English).
Canadian fiction-21st century.

Preschool-grade 4 / Ages 4-9.

Review by Charlotte Enns.

**** /4



But she was determined to stay in the truck – smelly, muddy pigs and all – because each turn of the truck's big wheels took her farther away from snooty Aunt Belle, who thought Deaf people couldn't learn, and closer to her home, where everyone signed, and everyone knew how smart she was." (From "The Smart Princess," by Déna Ruiter-Koopmans.)

"What the heck are you using your hands for?" he asked Nicray.

"Three of us are Deaf," Kristy reminded her colleague. "But if we all sign and speak, the whole crew can communicate."
(From "Earth 2," by Nicholas Meloche-Kales.)

When the true story came out, the other girls got in trouble and hated me even more than they did before.
(From "My Life Changed," by Nicole Marsh.)

And so the two new friends started on their journey, unable to communicate very well, but happy to be together, and hopeful that soon they would be able to chat just as all friends do.
(From "Best Friends," by Kristina Guévremont.)


The Smart Princess and Other Deaf Tales is a collection of five stories created by Deaf youth and young adults who participated in the Ladder Awards II: Story Swap, a project of the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf. This is the second publication resulting from the national competition, and it provides an opportunity for new Deaf authors, storytellers, and illustrators to emerge. This book is also designed to increase the small amount of Canadian children's literature reflecting the Deaf experience.

      What makes the stories in this collection so engaging and powerful is that they are clearly written in the voice of Deaf people themselves. The stories reflect a worldview where being Deaf is "normal" and to hear is different or strange. These young authors have told stories that emerge from the values and attitudes they have developed and the experiences they have had as Deaf people. Similar themes run through the five stories – the desire to be included in a meaningful way; acceptance for who they are – whether they sign, speak, use hearing aids or a cochlear implant; and, being regarded as equal to hearing people, with the same rights and privileges.

internal art      The first story, "The Smart Princess," addresses, from a child's point of view, the misconception that many Deaf people face - if you can't talk you must be dumb. As the title implies, this misconception is easily dispelled through Princess Lyla's actions! In "Earth 2," a planet of all Deaf people is discovered which causes the hearing members of the crew to consider life from the perspective of their Deaf crewmates. The third story, "My Life Changed," relates the kind of teasing that some Deaf students face when they are alone in a regular classroom, and it raises the question of "appropriate" educational placement. "My Tiger" is a lovely story about the importance of imagination and making dreams come true for all children, hearing or Deaf. The final story, "Best Friends," is a wonderful problem-solving tale about the importance of friendship in overcoming communication breakdown. Together, these five original stories provide information, insight, and awareness both to Deaf and hearing readers.

      Although these stories are interesting and engaging in their own right, I would particularly recommend this book for Deaf children and their families. The stories reflect situations of hurt, isolation, and difficulty with communication that Deaf children may be feeling but do not know how to express. These stories can help parents understand what their child might be experiencing and allow them to provide needed support. The stories also emphasize the abilities of Deaf people both in an informative and inspirational way.

     The Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf is to be congratulated for once again providing a valuable contribution to children's literature in general, and specifically for increasing the awareness of children's literature from a Deaf perspective.

Highly Recommended.

Charlotte Enns, who teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, conducts research related to literacy development of Deaf children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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