Friday, November 15, 2013

By Lou Honderich
Publisher: Mockingbird Lane Press
Published: April 15, 2013
ISBN:  9780985690663

Ricki, a ten-year-old deaf girl living in Oklahoma, is crazy about horses. Her dream is to win first place in a horse show. At her grandparents' farm she works toward that goal, riding their Quarter Horse, Frosty. Then an unexpected event rocks her family's comfortable life, bringing new challenges for everyone. Discover the fascinating world of 

deaf culture and sign language. Cheer for this spirited, determined girl on her quest for a blue ribbon.
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My Thoughts:

This book is about a ten-year-old girl who loves to ride horses. And just like any horse-loving girl her age, she dreams of winning a blue ribbon in a horse riding competition. But Ricki isn’t just like any other girl her age, because she is totally deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate.

Lou Honderich has written this book with the deaf child in mind. The ASL is written just as the deaf person would sign it. The book is written for the hearing child also; to understand what it might be like to be deaf. Ms. Honderich has been part of both the hearing and the deaf worlds, and so she has the unique ability to write her story with complete understanding of the way both sides interact.

Ricki faces several challenges in her horse competitions; the greatest being not being able to hear the announcer give the commands for the riders to walk, trot, reverse or stop their horses. She had to rely on hand signals from the ring steward. A simple lapse of attention could mean the difference between winning a ribbon and finishing last place.

I loved how Ms. Honderich was able to show that American Sign Language (ASL) is so different grammatically from English that it is considered a different language. She easily captured how difficult social situations can be for totally deaf individuals in a hearing society. The gesture the children from the 4H Club made of learning to fingerspell their own names so they could introduce themselves to Ricki was truly a beautiful thing to do.

Ricki has a hard time when she has to move to another state after her father finds another job after being laid off. Though it is closer to her beloved grandmother and the horse Frosty, that Ricki loves to ride, leaving her friends and going to a new school is almost overwhelming.

At her new school, Ricki meets a five-year-old child who cries and hides under the table almost every day. Ricki doesn’t understand this until she talks to her grandmother one day and learns that it is probably because the child’s parents don’t know how to sign, and so the child is likely frustrated because she can’t understand and can’t make herself understood. The author brings home the need for parent and siblings of deaf children to learn sign language without standing on a soap box or making anyone feel guilty.

There are so many lessons to learn and awareness to gain from reading this book. I think everyone who has contact with a deaf person should read it to gain understanding into what it is like to be deaf in a hearing world. One of the things that Ms. Honderich clearly shows through the actions of her characters is how important it is for parents of deaf children to learn sign language in order to communicate with their children. Throughout the story we learn how Ricki and her grandmother are able to have a close relationship because they are able to communicate easily. We also learn that Ricki’s grandmother had a difficult time gaining that same closeness with her own grandmother because she did not know sign language.

I felt that this book was very well written. Ms. Honderich’s knowledge of horses and horse competitions is evident as well as her knowledge of deaf culture. The pace of the book is excellent. I also appreciated that the dialogue signed in ASL was written in bold print exactly as it would have been signed.

I think this would be an excellent book to be used in schools to help develop an awareness in hearing impairment. As a teacher of children with disabilities (visual impairment) I particularly liked that the book showed that a child with a hearing impairment is can do everything hearing children can do except hear.  I hope that Ms. Honderich writes more books like these! I gave this book 5 stars.

Thank you to the author, Lou Honderich who provided a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Lou Honderich is a lifelong horsewoman who loves to read. She is a teacher, mother of five and grandmother of seven. Her hearing loss as an adult led her to sign language, the deaf community, and the marvelous children she has worked with in schools, summer camps, and Horses for Healing, a therapeutic riding program. The author and her husband live in northwest Arkansas with their horses, dogs, cats and chickens. 
After becoming hearing impaired Lou taught deaf a hard-of-hearing students in kindergarten, grade 1 and PE in self-contained classrooms, as well as in  mainstreamed situations, therapeutic horseback riding and summer camps.

Contact Lou Honderich

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