The best sign language books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about sign language and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Tell Me How the Wind Sounds

Tell Me How the Wind Sounds

By Leslie Davis Guccione,

Why this book?

This is another one that I read years ago that has stayed lodged in my brain. I enjoy a young romance that is handled complexly, instead of following typical trope guidelines. In this case, two teens meet on an island in New England, one is deaf and one is not. It is very rare to find disabilities represented in Young Adult Literature, despite the genre usually striving for diversity. And this is a very cute story. I love the idea that the girl, Amanda, has to break out of her comfort zone and learn how to connect with someone vastly…

From the list:

The best books if you seek a peculiar romance

Book cover of Little Beauty

Little Beauty

By Anthony Browne,

Why this book?

A sad gorilla who can use sign language asks the keepers for a friend. He’s given a kitten, and a wonderful cross-species friendship is born. I especially enjoyed the line “they did everything together,” which is accompanied by a humorous illustration showing the gorilla on a toilet and Beauty, the cat, in a litter box.

The artwork expressively captures the gorilla’s sadness, joy, worry, and anger. When a movie makes the gorilla so upset that he smashes the television, the keepers think they should take the cat away for her safety. However, Beauty hilariously changes their minds by signing that…

From the list:

The best children’s picture books with unlikely friendships that help readers look beyond differences

Book cover of Seeing Voices

Seeing Voices

By Oliver Sacks,

Why this book?

Here we have another of Oliver Sacks' brilliant books, the subject this time being the deaf. My brother’s wife is profoundly deaf as is her brother (heredity disease). He had a cochlear implant but she refused one and knowing my brother I can’t blame her. To me the most fascinating part of the book is the development of sign language and how different forms appeared in different countries. The creation of deaf schools, like the one started by Alexander Graham Bell, whose parents were both profoundly deaf, caused controversy because he didn’t believe in sign language and tried to force…

From the list:

The best books on honest communication and realistic insight into language usage

Book cover of The Witch Collector

The Witch Collector

By Charissa Weaks,

Why this book?

I picked up this book because I wanted to read another book about a witch who couldn't talk. Luckily, it's nothing like mine, phew.

Raina is a young woman who was born without the ability to speak. She lives in a country where magical ability is commonplace and marked on their skin. To substitute her lack of voice she communicates with sign language and can also weave spells that way. I didn't sense that Raina's lack of voice held her back very much. I think she had more trouble with jumping to conclusions and being too stubborn for her own…

From the list:

The best fantasy books with characters who can't talk

Book cover of Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States

Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States

By Irene Leigh, Jean Andrews, Raychelle Harris, Topher Gonzáles Ávila

Why this book?

The authors explore the complexity of deaf identities, looking at race, sexual behavior/orientation, disability, and the range of different experiences deaf people have, from being born into a family that signs to not even learning about sign languages until they are (nearly) adults.

From the list:

The best books about deaf culture

Book cover of Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green,

Why this book?

Macy’s mom is getting married and Macy isn’t looking forward to a new step-dad and two pesky little step-sisters. When Macy and her best friend have a falling out, the crabby ancient woman next door—who doesn’t even know sign language—couldn’t possibly become an ally…or could she? I love the free verse format of this novel, and the use of bolded text for dialogue, and how Macy’s hearing impairment is a streamlined and interesting aspect of her characterization.   

From the list:

The best middle grade books about kids living here and now

Book cover of Moses Goes to School

Moses Goes to School

By Isaac Millman,

Why this book?

I haven’t seen a lot of picture books about children using American Sign Language (ASL), and I enjoyed the details of a day in a public school for the deaf and hard of hearing, although the book’s age (it came out in 2000) means the tech is somewhat out of date. While this book is not about Deaf culture, it does—like all the books on my list—give kid-friendly examples of the language it is introducing. I appreciated that the children are shown signing in ASL and not just fingerspelling English words, and that the author made some attempt to convey…

From the list:

The best picture books about languages

Book cover of The Raging Quiet

The Raging Quiet

By Sherryl Jordan,

Why this book?

A writer of predominantly fantasy and historical fiction, Sheryl Jordan’s books have heart and soul. The Raging Quiet, a fantasy novel, introduces us to outsider Marnie, a young widow living in an isolated medieval community. Her only friends are a priest and a weird, "mad" youth called Raven, who she realizes is not mad at all, but deaf. When she teaches him "hand words" they are both suspected of witchcraft and find themselves under attack. It’s a book that pierces your heart and stays with you for a long time afterward. 

From the list:

The best books for an introduction to Aotearoa New Zealand's YA writers (IMO)

Book cover of Signing Everyday Phrases: More Than 3,400 Signs

Signing Everyday Phrases: More Than 3,400 Signs

By Mickey Flodin,

Why this book?

Whenever I need an ASL translation of an English word or phrase I check Signing Everyday Phrases. It provides the Manual Alphabet and breaks the book into chapters like “Home, Family, and Friends,” “Leisure and Sports,” “Time, Weather, and Holidays,” and a lot more. If you need the sign for a word, check the Index, and you’ll find it there. The book provides pictures of the sign and below that, a printed explanation. If you are learning ASL basics, this book will be a huge help. 

From the list:

The best books on the effect of deafness and understanding deaf people

Book cover of Inside Deaf Culture

Inside Deaf Culture

By Carol Padden, Tom Humphries,

Why this book?

This book looks at the history of hearing people’s attitudes toward deaf people and sign languages in America over the past two centuries, and how those attitudes and the social institutions that stem from them have affected the ways deaf people see themselves. Despite the suppression of their language, deaf signers managed to keep American Sign Language alive through clubs and theater. Today, sign languages have achieved recognition of their full status as natural human languages.

From the list:

The best books about deaf culture

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