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You’ve heard of Helen Keller, but do you know Belle? Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle by Holly M. Barry is a furry tale (tail?) about Helen’s adventures with her childhood friend, an old setter named Belle. This children’s book is basically a diluted version of Arthur Penn’s 1962 biopic, The Miracle Worker. The readers are introduced to Helen at birth and quickly learn that an illness leaves her completely deaf and blind before she reaches her 2nd birthday. From that point on, her world is filled with soundless darkness that only her dogs can comfort her in for the next few years.
It is Hanukkah season and the Jewish Community Center is hosting a dreidel workshop and Hanukkah celebration to mark the occasion. All the children have grand ideas for making their dreidels unique including Miriam’s “green” dreidel made from recycled materials, Jacob’s singing one made from an old music box, David’s bouncing dreidel made from a rubber ball, and Jeremy’s Braille dreidel. Jeremy’s choice of material, clay, initially does not seem as interesting as that of the other children. However, as he begins to model his clay dreidel with mysterious dots, the other children in the workshop soon recognize its uniqueness and, in the process, they learn a lesson about Braille, blindness, and what it means to have a parent who is blind. (more…)
Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles is a story about Hanukkah but with a twist. It traces the celebratory rituals that Jacob and his family enjoy for the eight days of Hanukkah as well as shows Jacob’s frustration and embarrassment with his autistic big brother Nathan who constantly repeats himself, hugs complete strangers, and obsessively announces long lists of random facts. A centerpiece of the Hanukkah tradition is lighting the menorah; and, for Jacob, it becomes central to his holiday anxiety: Every day of the Hanukkah celebration, much to Jacob’s chagrin, Nathan blows out the newly lit candle on the menorah. Their parents are patient with Nathan and his autism; and, they help guide Jacob and their new neighbors’ son to becoming a bit more understanding of his disorder as well. (more…)
Duyvis’ Otherbound is a tour-de-force in complications. The story is told through dual narrators, Nolan and Amara. Nolan, a bilingual Hispanic teenager growing up in small town Arizona, has a crippling neurological disorder, masked as epilepsy. This disorder has already cost him one foot and incurred massive medical debt for his working class family. In the past, Nolan’s disorder even caused hallucinations whenever he blinked. He is constantly aware of the burden he unintentionally places on his family and struggles to connect with those around him, his disabilities impairing him both physically and mentally. Nolan is also doing his best to hide a secret: the hallucinations never stopped. Every time Nolan closes his eyes his mind is transported into the body of our second protagonist, Amara.