Review: The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin

 

The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin.  Illustrated by Jez Tuya.  (Albert Whitman and Company, 2017)

William Ellsworth Hoy has long been a hero of the Deaf community – a record-setting baseball player who played for multiple National League teams and changed the way that baseball was played. Churnin’s approachable text and Tuya’s expressive illustrations take readers along with William’s struggles to be taken seriously by the hearing world – which, in the 1880s, didn’t believe a deaf player could amount to much. William proves the critics wrong through determination, grit, and talent, and soon teams and fans are clamoring for him. Many biographies of Hoy get hung up on his nickname, “Dummy”, which was a common term applied to deaf people at the time, but Churnin wisely keeps the focus on Hoy’s accomplishments throughout the story, saving such details, with contextualizing comments, for an informative afterward. A timeline of Hoy’s life offers more details for baseball lovers.

Coming soon: an interview with the author!

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Review: ASL Tales

ASL Tales: RapunzelASL Tales: Annie's TailsASL Tales: The Princess and the Pea

ASL Tales: The Tortoise and the HareASL Tales: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Click on the covers above for previews of each story and purchase information.

ASL Tales proclaims itself to be “a new way of experiencing American Sign Language and English” and these engaging DVD/picture book sets truly deliver on that promise. Each DVD features a story told by a master ASL storyteller, incorporating illustrations from the accompanying picture book. Viewers can choose to engage with the story on many different levels – by watching the story in ASL only, in ASL alternating with the book illustrations, in ASL with voiceover and/or captions, or in multiple combinations of these options. Voiceover narration is available in 11 different languages – English, Cantonese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Haitian Creole, Mandarin, Spanish, Bosnian, French, and Portuguese – making this product an ideal learning tool for families from many different language backgrounds. The ASL storytelling itself is absolutely masterful, with native signers providing beautiful language modeling.

But where ASL Tales really stands out from the pack is its “ASL Clues” feature, which allows viewers to see each individual sentence of the story in slow motion, with relevant ASL grammatical features explained on the screen. These features include use of role shift, classifiers, nonmanual signals, directionality, and nuances of vocabulary – but you won’t see linguistic terms like these on the screen. Instead, you will find user-friendly explanations of the grammatical features that can be understood easily by all. The producers have pulled off quite a feat here – making big-picture language information accessible to a wide range of learners, while at the same time providing detailed, hands-on information about the nuances of the language that will aid even upper-level ASL and interpreting students.

This feature takes ASL Tales far beyond the typical list-of-vocabulary approach (though each DVD also features a useful video glossary of relevant signs) and helps viewers understand how to put sentences and stories together in ASL. The producers have created an incredibly flexible product that is both enjoyable and enlightening, one that can be enjoyed by hearing and deaf audiences alike, and one which manages to support written, spoken, and sign language development all at once. Bravo!