Children’s and Teen Fiction About ASL and Deaf Culture

The following resources are ones that I personally recommend and are not a comprehensive list of available resources on this topic.

Apple is my Sign by Mary Riskind. Houghton Mifflin, 1981: This historical novel centers around a 10-year-old boy who returns to his parents’ apple farm for the holidays after his first term at a school for the deaf in Philadelphia.

Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin. Simon and Schuster, 2002; Nobody’s Perfect by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney. Simon and Schuster, 2002; Leading Ladies by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney. Simon and Schuster, 2007: Award-winning Deaf actress Marlee Matlin draws on her own childhood in these novels about Megan and Lizzie, both deaf, and their hearing friend Cindy, and their attempts to navigation friendships, summer camp, birthday parties, and school plays.

El Deafo by Cece Bell.  Amulet Books, 2014: Cece Bell uses the graphic novel format for her memoir of growing up deaf in a hearing family, with an appealing anthropomorphized rabbits standing in for people. Read Kathy’s full review at 

Gaps in Stone Walls by John Neufeld. Athenuem, 1996: In the late 19th century, hereditary deafness affected at least 1/5 of the population of Chilmark, a town on Martha’s Vineyard. Among this group is Merry Skiffe, an artistic 12-year-old whose peaceful life unravels when wealthy miser Ned Nickerson is murdered on a dark road and Merry finds herself among the four residents of Chilmark who have no alibi.

Probably the World’s Best Story about a Dog and the Girl Who Loved Me by D. James Smith. Atheneum, 2006: Paolo O’Neil, 12, has one of those large families so full of love that they absorb stragglers without a thought. One of them is his deaf cousin, Billy, nine, who has been abandoned by his mother and become Paolo’s best friend. This riotous sequel to The Boys of San Joaquin (S & S, 2005) follows the boys through the summer of 1951 in their small California town. They take on a paper route, the family dog is kidnapped, they meet a strange out-of-town visitor, and Paolo inadvertently gets his first girlfriend. The main characters feel real, especially Billy, whose deafness is simply one aspect of his character. Each chapter title includes a description of an American Sign Language sign.

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look and Anne Wilsdorf. Atheneum, 2007:When Ruby’s cousin Flying Duck emigrates from China to live with her, Ruby decides the best thing about Flying Duck is that she is a great new friend. BUT the worst thing about Flying Duck is that now, no one speaks English at home. Plus, there’s strange food on the table every night and only chopsticks to eat it with. And Flying Duck is deaf, and Ruby doesn’t know any Chinese Sign Language. Flying Duck introduces some basic Chinese Sign Language in the appendix.

The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan. Simon and Schuster, 1999: This tender historical YA novel centers around Marnie, a young woman forced to marry an older man to save her family from starvation. When her new husband dies in a fall, the villagers suspect she is a witch, and their suspicions grows when she befriends a another outcast who is deaf, and romance grows between them.