I had high hopes for this book about a little girl with a hearing loss, especially when I saw the enchanting illustrations. But I was disappointed in the text.
Almigal starts by telling us she considers herself lucky, even though she wears hearing aids and misses a lot of sounds.
Then, she tells us she is sad and unlucky because she can’t hear everything.
She gets an operation for cochlear implants, and now she feels happy and lucky again.
First, I found the dialogue a bit stilted. Rather than sounding like the story was told by a girl Almigal’s age, to me, it sounded more like a story told by an adult trying to speak simpler.
In addition, Almigal flips back and forth: first she says she is happy and lucky, then she says the very same circumstances make her sad and unlucky. Then we go back to the beginning. Why? Because she has had a $40,000-plus procedure for cochlear implants.
Many insurance plans do not cover this procedure, or only cover it in part. Moreover, it is not effective for all types of hearing loss. Thus this book might give the wrong impression both to those with hearing impairments and those without. And those who could benefit from cochlear implants but whose parents cannot afford it are now told how unhappy and unlucky they are.
Finally, the use of this procedure is extremely controversial, especially within the deaf community. In an article summarizing the arguments on both sides of the issue, authors Delost and Lashley of MacMurray College include the observation that:
“Doctors and parents tend to see the child as missing something and view the deafness as a disability that must be fixed to make the child “normal” or whole again. This attitude can have serious social and emotional implications (Stewart-Muirhead). A child who is told she is “broken” and needs to be fixed will forever see herself as less of a person because of her deafness.”
This problem comes to the fore in this book because of the fact that the “happiness and luckiness” of hearing with the implants is not available to all children for the reasons stated above.
On the positive side, the illustrations by Tammie Lyon are stellar. Lyon has made Almigal and her friends as cute as they can be.
Evaluation: Not recommended except for the small population of children who (a) have hearing impairments that can benefit from cochlear implants and (b) have the financial means to obtain the implants if they need and want them. Those who do meet these special circumstances and/or their family and acquaintances will undoubtedly love this story.
Published by Handfinger Press, 2012
Note: There is some excellent background information on cochlear implants (along with a very cool drawing of how the device works) provided by the National Institutes of Health, here. The Cochlear Implant Education Center (CIEC) of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University also sponsors a wonderful implant education center website, here.