A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Joey has been mostly deaf since early childhood, but her mother has refused to let her learn sign language. But in her teens, Joey meets a neighbor, Dr. Mansell, who has a chimpanzee, Sukari, who can communicate in sign language. Trying to keep it secret from her mother, Joey begins to learn to sign. But when her mother finds out, and then Dr. Mansell dies, Sukari's future is in doubt. Includes sign-language alphabet, author's Afterword, and a Reader's Guide in the paperback edition.
Is it any good?
While the story never comes across as didactic, no one will miss the piercing critique of animal testing, and it's a theme that will resonate strongly with young readers. Equally powerful, though, is the web of issues relating to deaf children and their families, and in Joey young readers will encounter a strongly sympathetic, and courageous heroine. Like many in the deaf community, she recognizes the positive aspects of her situation, and though she is often frustrated and lonely, she is also at times grateful and relieved to embrace her deafness.
There are a lot of important themes here -- deafness, communication, animal rights, parental fallibility, abuse -- and sophomore author Ginny Rorby swirls them together into a powerfully potent brew in which each ingredient enhances the others. Without ever getting graphic or inappropriate, the emotional and at times disturbing result may be too much for more sensitive readers. The rest will find it hard to put down while reading, and harder still to forget afterwards. This is a book that has a lasting impact on the reader, and those in the target age group may want to go further and take action.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about animal testing and experimentation. What are the pros and cons? Which outweighs the other? What are the ethics involved? Is it OK if it saves many lives? Is it OK with some animals but not with others? Readers who wish to know more can start with the Web sites listed below, as well as the organizations listed in the back of the book.