CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 27. . . .March 18, 2011
Splish, Splat! is an engaging story about a young boy, Colin, who doesn't like the ugly yellow colour of his bedroom. His mother, Betty, decides to hire painters to fix it. This introduces them to Heather and Molly, two painters who happen to be Deaf.
The book does an excellent job of incorporating information about Deaf people into the natural flow of the story, rather than explicitly "teaching" about this topic. The descriptions and information are authentic because both the author and illustrator are Deaf. The main focus is the storyline, and the byproducts include learning about message relay services for telephone connections and communicating with Deaf people through signed and written language. The natural incorporation of this information serves to normalize being Deaf. This is further supported by having Deaf characters, Heather and Molly, portrayed as valuable members of society – they are professional painters hired to do a needed job. The one misleading point is when the two painters are chatting in American Sign Language and, while moving their hands around, they end up speckling the blue walls with white paint without realizing it. Although this is the "punch line" of the story and intended to be humorous, it could convey that Deaf people can't be very capable painters. This is probably not a concern for the children reading this story, as they will appreciate and enjoy the exaggeration and silliness, but it may be more difficult for the adult readers to make this shift from the realistic to unrealistic realm of storytelling.
Charlotte Enns teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and conducts research related to literacy development of Deaf children.
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