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Multicultural Literature for Youth

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moses.jpg

Millman, Isaac. 1998. Moses Goes to a Concert.  New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN: 0-374-35067-1.

 

Moses is an energetic, friendly young boy who is deaf. He plays a drum in preparation for his class trip to a symphony concert. Once at the concert, Mr. Samuels, Moses’ teacher, leads his eleven deaf students to their front row seats, shares that he is friends with the featured percussionist, and explains what percussion instruments are.  The children are surprised and delighted when the percussionist walks on stage in her socks, and they learn she is deaf, too. Mr. Samuels gives each student a blown-up balloon to hold on their lap so they can feel the music’s vibrations. After the show, the children get to meet Ms. Elwyn, the percussionist, and to play all her instruments. Using sign language, Ms. Elwyn  shares how she went deaf at age seven but worked hard to realize her musical dream. Moses feels empowered by Ms. Elwyn’s talk, and that night he tells his parents that he can be anything he wants to be with hard work. Like Ms. Elwyn, Moses wants to be a percussionist.

 

This well-written, entertaining, educational book provides an insightful view into the deaf world.  Many hearing children and adults will be surprised to learn that deaf people can enjoy, feel, and perform music. Moses is a likeable boy who enjoys his friends and who has future goals. A positive role model, Moses is an individual rather than a stereotype.  His multicultural classmates help readers see that deafness crosses all boundaries. Readers are treated to attractive sign language “boxes” on many pages and to an author’s note about the boxes. Those who are interested can learn words and phrases in American Sign Language (ASL).

 

The colorful, detailed illustrations have a cartoon quality. Largely made up of two-page spreads, the illustrations often project movement, especially when the percussionist is playing and signing. Three spreads are totally devoted to signed conversations, and the final page shows the sign language alphabet. A reviewer’s comments about another Moses book hold true for this one as well. Pierini writes, “Child-friendly cartoon illustrations do a marvelous job of emphasizing the normalcy and charm of these youngsters” (SLJ, 2000).

 

Millman includes several cultural markers such as signing and feeling music vibrations with shoeless feet. He does not address hearing aids, lip reading, or oral communication. When writing this book, Millman consulted with two deaf educators to help him “get the sign-language diagrams in this book just right” (author’s note). Readers watch Moses sign to his friends, Mr. Samuels, Ms. Elwyn, his parents, and the audience. At home, Moses takes his shoes off so he can feel the vibrations of his drum, and the percussionist does the same. Moses and his classmates sit in the front row of the concert and hold balloons to help them feel the music. Some wave at the end instead of applauding.

 

Moses appears to be a well-adjusted child who is much like other children his age. His room is messy, he has a large dog, he enjoys his friends, and he seems to communicate well with his parents. This book is recommended for children ages 4-8 who will be introduced to new experiences and who may find many things in common with Moses.