Just in time for Better Hearing & Speech Month, Handfinger Press has released a new picture book about a young girl with hearing loss that can be enjoyed by all children. Let's Hear It for Almigal, by Wendy Kupfer, is the endearing, lighthearted and informative story of a happy little girl who feels unlucky because she can't hear everything she wants to hear.
Kupfer is the mother of a child born with severe to profound hearing loss. She was inspired to write the book when she became frustrated with the lack of characters in children's books who use hearing aids or cochlear implants.
"I was working with the University of Miami Cochlear Implant Center, visiting with families with deaf or hard-of-hearing babies and toddlers," she said. "I felt so strongly about the need for these children to see hearing aids and implants in the media, both to boost their self-esteem and to educate their friends."
The title character in her book feels lucky most of the time. Almigal has lots of friends, and each one is different. But she's unhappy when she can't hear a baby's giggle, robins chirping, or the music in ballet class. Worst of all, she can't hear parents say, "I love you," when they tuck her into bed.
Young readers will identify with Almigal and her friends, who are portrayed in lively, colorful art by award-winning illustrator Tammie Lyon. And they will rejoice with her when a solution is found for her problem.
Several of the incidents in the book are based on Kupfer's real-life experiences. Like Almigal, her daughter Ali never wanted to miss anything, hated to remove her hearing aids at bedtime, and kept them in a special heart-shaped box. Ali really did jump into a swimming pool once without removing her hearing aids, and Kupfer actually "saved the day" with a hairdryer.
By showing Ali's life as a confident little girl, the book provides a valuable resource for teachers, parents and caregivers and an entertaining, fun starting point for conversations about people with disabilities.
"Parents need to have expectations for their children, even those with special needs," said Kupfer. "There are lots of bumps along the way, as with all children. But with lots of love and support from family and close friends, you can get through it."
Kupfer, who lives in South Florida, has worked closely with cochlear implant surgeon Thomas Balkany, MD, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Miami.