Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Module 6: Moses Goes to a Concert

Millman, Isaac. 1998. Moses Goes to a Concert. Illustrated by Isaac Millman. New York, NY: Frances Foster Books. ISBN 0374350671.

Plot Summary
Moses and his classmates go on a field trip to a concert. Moses and all of the students in his class are deaf. The percussionist who is playing in the concert is also deaf. The students are able to feel the vibrations of the music by holding balloons. After the concert Moses and his classmates talk to the percussionist and are able to play her instruments. In the evening when Moses is home he tells his parents that he wants to be a percussionist.

Critical Analysis
Moses Goes to a Concert is a unique book since it incorporates sign language. The author's note provides information about American Sign Language, and there is an explanation for the arrows and symbols used in the diagrams. The book uses pictures and text in the same manner as other picture books, but it also includes a short phrase that is said by Moses along with pictures of him signing the phrase. A few of the pages only show a character signing the text. On these pages the words being signed are printed right below the picture. For example, at one point Moses says, "When you set your mind to it, you can become anything you want when you grow up..." The two page spread has 12 separate pictures of Moses signing the words to that sentence. The last page in the book shows the hand alphabet.

According to the author's note Millman worked with two deaf teachers in order to make sure the sign language in his illustrations was correct. Millman made sure his diagrams were accurate and presented them in a manner that allows the reader to practice and learn words and phrases in sign language. The regular illustrations and the text are also accurate. When the children are shown talking to each other they are shown using sign language. Readers can learn about some aspects of Moses' life as a deaf child. He goes to school with other deaf children and they all speak with sign language. Moses cannot hear, but he can feel the vibrations that sound makes.

The largest message in the book is that Moses, and other individuals who are deaf, can accomplish anything when they grow up. The book mentions that they will have to work hard to achieve their goals, but does not specifically mention difficulties that exist for individuals who are deaf. The message is important and relevant, but is mentioned more than once and seems a bit overdone in the end. Aside from this aspect Millman provides and engaging story. Moses' excitement for the concert draws the reader into the story. The illustrations show a lively performance by the percussionist and cause the reader to wonder what it would be like to be sitting with the class, feeling the vibrations through a balloon.

The book does not include stereotypes, does not overemphasize the disability, and does not "use" the characters. Moses is portrayed as a happy, normal boy who is deaf. All of the characters are also deaf and the reader is allowed to see the world from their perspective. A big focus of the book is to introduce American Sign Language. There is a phrase in American Sign Language on almost every page. The diagrams make it possible for the readers to practice signing the phrase. This provides and interactive feature that actually makes the book even more engaging.

Review Excerpts
"Cheerful watercolor illustrations show the multiethnic children enjoying themselves at the concert, while smaller cartoon strips feature Moses's additional comments in sign language. A page displaying the manual alphabet and a conversation in sign language in which Moses tells his parents about his day enhance the upbeat story." -School Library Journal

"Deaf children will welcome this joyful story that talks, without condescension, about the fun they have. Hearing kids, too, will want to learn some of the sign language, and with the help of an adult, they can practice the hand alphabet shown at the back of the book." -Booklist

Use Moses Goes to a Concert for story time with a concert or music theme. After, or while, reading the book allow the children to practice some of the sign language Moses does in the diagrams. Pass around drums to each child and let them take off their shoes so that they can feel the vibrations while the drums are being played. Other books that can be used with it are 5 Nice Mice by Kate Westerlund, Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka, and The Philharmonic gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin.

1 comment:

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