Kid Lit Review of “Hands & Hearts” by Donna Jo Napoli


This story follows a mother and daughter on an outing to the beach. Their simple activities are shown with muted pencil-and-watercolor paintings on one side of the two-page spreads, and illustrations of associated sign language on the other side.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.54.29 AM

Fifteen words help describe the full and fun day that includes flowers, dance, sun, swim, and of course the word laugh, ending up with the word for sunset.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.54.51 AM

The illustrations by Amy Bates are perfect for very young children.

Discussion: It turns out that Donna Jo Napoli, one of my favorite authors, is also Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore and in addition works for the language rights of deaf children. … in her copious spare time. In her scholarly writing, she observes that 80% of children born deaf in the developed world receive cochlear implants, allowing some of them access to sound in the early years critical to speech development.

However, not only is the success rate with cochlear implants highly variable, but children who have not acquired a first language in the early years might never be completely fluent in any language. Napoli advocates teaching these children sign language. But, she reports, some families are opposed, thinking, for example, this might discourage their children from becoming fully competent in a hearing and speaking environment.

Napoli maintains that all deaf children should be given the opportunity for full linguistic development, and the ability to interact with other deaf peers, to ensure they develop social and communication skills.

In the back matter Napoli says that she hopes this book will make readers want to explore being more expressive with hands and faces, whether or not hearing is an issue.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams, 2014

About rhapsodyinbooks

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3 Responses to Kid Lit Review of “Hands & Hearts” by Donna Jo Napoli

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I love sweet books that teach something like that. This looks gorgeous!

  2. sandynawrot says:

    Makes me reminiscent of my times on the beach with my kids.

  3. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea says:

    The illustrations to Hands and Heart look lovely.

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