Review: Hands and Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli

cover of Hands and HeartsHands and Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli. New York: Abrams, 2014.

I have long been familiar with Donna Jo Napoli’s fiction for young adults, especially her achingly beautiful Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale and the fairy-tale retellings Beast, and Zel.  But until I read the afterword of this picture book, I had no idea that Napoli is also a linguist and an activist supporting the language rights of Deaf children!  You can find more about her linguistics work, including links to a really cool series of bilingual ASL/English ebooks she helped develop, here.

Back to the book at hand: on the surface, this is a simple, lyrical tale of mother and daughter spending a day at the beach, but every bit of it is built around the things their hands do: waving hello to the waves, digging in the sand, making a tent, and even being “Yak yak hands/yak yak fingers/telling as we run/out the gate down the path.”  It’s a subtle reference to mother and child signing, and indeed, each page is accompanied by illustrations teaching a relevant sign such as RUN, WATER, or SUN.  Amy Bates’ dreamy illustrations make this a sweet, gentle tale of family togetherness.  A lovely addition to the ASL picture book canon.

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