Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Published: 2nd January 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Love is more than meets the eye.

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

This is an interesting book because it makes you think about whether given the option, would vision impaired people chose to gain their sight? Like most groups there are arguments for and against, there are people who have no desire while others would give it a go. Will is someone in the camp of wanting his sight but Sundquist makes it a gradual decision, something which has developed as he experiences more things with sighted people. Personally I was surprised Will chose to do this. I understand completely that being blind in a world so reliant on sight would be incredibly hard, but Will never seemed to worry about it, his change of heart comes from his time with Cecily and it makes him reconsider.

Sundquist does put forward both sides of the debate, Will’s dad makes a good argument for why Will doesn’t need to have sight for his life to be fulfilled, and showcases the amazing skills he had gained from living his life without sight. Even for a fiction book it was incredibly hard for me to wish Will didn’t get the surgery. It isn’t for a sighted person to tell someone they shouldn’t get a chance to see, but I will admit I agreed with Will’s dad at the start, he had developed a range of skills that he would lose when sighted. Where Will’s dad was against the surgery I thought his mum was pushing for it. I felt like her desire in life was to “fix” Will, while nothing is stated outright I felt like his inability to see had been a burden on her life and she never trusted him to navigate the world on his own, giving him sight would free her from this.

One interesting component was the way we are brought into Will’s sightless world. There is great imagery and explanations about how he goes about his day to day life and I will admit it was quite fascinating seeing him learn and understand about the sighted world. Things sighted people learn naturally are completely incomprehensible to him and I liked the gentle and vivid way those around him explained things. On the flip side, I loved how Cecily explains images and experiences to Will. They capture a moment in vivid detail that even if you can’t picture it, you grasp the concept. It was a clever approach and something her character would be capable of doing.

I liked Cecily, she was friendly and helpful and her friendship with Will develops and grows in a believable way. I initially was annoyed that Will would find Cecily unattractive because of something simple, but Sundquist actually explains it quite well about how it is much deeper than looks, it is about trust and betrayal. I was prepared to argue when I picked what her secret was, but to his credit Will handles it well and adds a few reflections and arguments of his own about the nature of beauty and societal expectations.

I was curious why Sundquist chose this topic, as an amputee he understands what it can be like missing something, but it was an interesting experience to chose to write from, especially one where it essentially gets “fixed”. Sundquist adds suspense and uncertainty whether Will’s operation will succeed which gives some extra tension, especially since we’ve follow Will’s fears and wishes about wanting to experience the sighted world. Whatever you think about his decision it is a sweet story and one that demonstrates the differences between the sighted and non-sighted world. The focus of the book is about Will and his sight, but there are heartfelt moments about friendship and living a full life around that as well which gives it a bit more narrative variation.

You can purchase Love and First Sights via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Boy by Phil Cummings

Published: 1st May 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic
Illustrator: Shane Devries
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The kings battles with the dragon were always mighty and loud… CLING CLANG CLONG! ROAR!

Boy lived in a silent world and couldn’t hear the fighting. But Boy could see the fear around him… and how everyone would be much happier.

Boy is deaf and he communicates through sign language Cummings calls “dancing hands”. Some of the villagers think he is strange but his parents love him and he tells stories by writing on the ground.

Cummings has written a very good book. This is not a book about Boy being deaf, his deafness does not help the problem, instead it acts as a means to get him in the situation where he can help the battle between the dragon and the king in his own way. I half expected the dragon to understand sign language to be honest and have Boy be the one to save the day by calming the dragon, but no. What Cummings has done is made a story where not only can anybody defeat a dragon regardless of who they are, but they can defeat it by being kind and understanding, and still be classed a hero.

This book was shortlisted for the 2018 CBCA awards and it didn’t win, but it could easily have come close. It’s a wonderfully sweet story with beautiful illustrations that bring out the heart and compassion to the story and mixes it with the fairy tale style of knights who battle dragons.

You can purchase Boy via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus & Robertson | Fishpond

QBD | Amazon Aust | Amazon

Image result for cbca shortlist logo

 

We’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Published: 1st January 1998Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Woodbine House
Illustrator: Pam Devito
Pages: 28
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

As six-year-old Emma anticipates the birth of her new baby brother or sister, she imagines all of the things they can do together. They’ll go to Grandpa’s farm to feed the calves, ride in the back of the mini-van making faces at the cars that go by, fly on airplanes, and someday, they’ll even go to Africa on a safari.

I will admit I got a little teary at the end of this book because the message is so wonderful. Stube-Bodeen’s story is about a little girl named Emma who has big plans for her new baby brother. Emma tells her dad that when the baby grows up she will play with him, read to him, and take him on plane rides and to the art festival. These plans, however, are suddenly in doubt when she discovers he was born with Down syndrome.

Emma’s dad explains to her what Down syndrome is and what it means for her new baby brother, Isaac. Emma listens and slowly understands, and she asks her dad if she will still be able to do all her big plans with Isaac like she wanted to.

I loved how this introduces Down syndrome to kids. It normalises it, makes it ok, but also makes it clear that there will be some challenges along the way both for Isaac and his family. I think this book would be great at teaching kids about the disability and helps them understand exactly what it means and how it relates to activities that they understand.

There is also an excellent information page at the end of the story that provides all sorts of information on Down syndrome and normalises it for kids and helps them understand. It’s a fantastic little book and one that can help kids understand if they know someone with this condition.

You can purchase We’ll Paint the Octopus Red via the following

Amazon | Book Depository

Booktopia | Wordery

Dymocks