Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review: A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

A Blind Guide to Stinkville
By Beth Vrabel
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Published: October 13, 2015

Amazon Synopsis:

Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.

This is a stirring small-town story that explores many different issues—albinism, blindness, depression, dyslexia, growing old, and more—with a light touch and lots of heart. Beth Vrabel’s characters are complicated and messy, but they come together in a story about the strength of community and friendship.

Book Links

My Thoughts:

Alice is a 12-year-old girl who moves from Seattle to a small mill town that everyone calls Stinkville because of the smell from the mill. For the first time in her life, she feels at a disadvantage. Back in her neighborhood in Seattle everyone knew she had albinism and was legally blind. Here in Stinkville, she has to explain her impairment to everyone and why despite being blind she can still read regular books, albeit with a magnifier. Alice doesn’t know her way around here and feels rather helpless until her parents start looking into schools for the blind.

I loved this book! I probably should say at the outset that I am probably rather biased as I am a teacher for visually impaired children and a mobility instructor so this book was right up my alley. I could totally relate to Alice as I have worked with students with albinism and understand their frustrations with having to explain not only what they can and cannot see, but why their skin and hair are so fair.

A Blind Guide to Stinkville was filled with humour including some of the classic blunders that sighted people consistently make with people who are visually impaired, such as speaking very loudly and slowly to them. This can be very offensive the blind person, but I thought that the author made the situation very funny. I also was in stitches over how the librarian kept telling her “seeing eye dog” how to take Alice to where Alice wanted to go instead of telling Alice. Sometimes we sighted people are so dumb!

I appreciated how Alice grew in her ability to become much more independent and grew in character through the book as she interviewed various people of the town for her “Sinkville Success Stories” essay contest entry. I liked the choices she made very for her stories of successful people for her essay and actually liked her choices better than some of the more obvious ones that the other entrants made.

As a mobility instructor, I was especially pleased to see that Alice started using her cane as that provided some protection for her and helped drivers and others know that she couldn’t see them very well. It also helped her parents recognize that Alice was becoming more independent and accepting of her vision impairment.

The best thing about A Blind Guide to Stinkville is that it showed blind people for who they truly can be: successful, independent, hard-working, caring individuals who just happen to see the world differently.

There is so much more to this book than I could possibly cover in this review, so many more themes running through it and all of them are important. Friendship, mental health, bullying, civil rights are just a few of them.

This book may have been written for a middle-grade audience, but really, it’s a book that everyone should read. I recommend it to everyone as a must-read! I gave it a rating of 5 stars out of 5!

Thank you to the publishers for providing this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. A positive opinion was not required. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author:

Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans--becoming a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater--didn't come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. Beth's background is journalism and was editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now writes full time.
Her books include PACK OF DORKS and A BLIND GUIDE TO STINKVILLE (releasing October by Sky Pony Press). Look for CAMP DORK in March 2016!

Author Links
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