Thursday, September 12, 2013


Recently I had the delightful pleasure of meeting (virtually) Anna Graham who agreed to review three books for TALKING STORY, a newsletter that Carol Baldwin and I create to service educators.

I loved Anna's reviews so much that I wanted to include them here.  Please note that the book in the center of the pic is my very own COMFORT!  (Yes, I chose it - with help from Carol.)

Moving left to right in the image, here are her reviews. Keep in mind that the common theme in each of these books is "disability" OR actually as the stories demonstrate, they are really about ability!  

Listening with My Heart 
by Heather Whitestone 

Heather Whitestone was the first disabled Miss America. Becoming profoundly deaf at only 18 months old, Heather experienced many bumps and potholes on the road to success. In this book, she writes about how she achieved her dreams. With the support of her family, friends, and her strong religious faith, Heather accomplished her lifelong goal to dance on stage and to become Miss America.

   Writing in a conversational tone, Heather Whitestone describes the tremendous amount of dedication and self-discipline needed for a deaf girl to learn how to speak, read lips, do schoolwork, compete in pageants, and dance. As a teen myself, I personally related the most towards her descriptions of her loneliness in school, and feeling out of place in the world. I think almost every teen can relate to sitting by yourself wishing someone would talk to you.

She says in her book "the most handicapped people on earth are those who are handicapped by negative thoughts and low expectations." Heather is very encouraging and positive, spreading her message to never give up, and to continue to follow your dreams. Her example is inspiring, showing that if a deaf girl can achieve so much, despite her disabilities, then certainly we can overcome ours. 

by Joyce Moyer Hostetter

“Everyone in life has a handicap, Ann Fay. But the struggle to overcome it is worthwhile.” Comfort, the sequel to Blue, continues the tale of Ann Fay Honeycutt, a North Carolina girl who is recovering from Polio. Ann Fay is not the only one recovering, her father has recently returned from the horror of fighting in WWII. Dealing with the intense topics of mental and physical disabilities, Comfort shows through Ann Fay’s eyes that “It mostly hurt at first. After a while it starts to feel better.”

Ann Fay’s physical struggles are contrasted with Mr. Honeycutt’s struggles with PTSD. Ann Fay has to maneuver through simple everyday activities that are suddenly extraordinarily difficult for her. Mr. Honeycutt’s struggles are shown when his PTSD affects him so severely that he lashes out at his family. Both find comfort, Ann Fay at the Warm Springs Institute where she physically recovers, and Mr. Honeycutt emotionally recovers by becoming friends with Otis.   

Otis is my favorite character. Despite the fact he is an outcast, he is actually quite wise with an unique outlook on life. “The way I figure it, a body can carry it around for the rest of his life if that’s what he wants. Or he can get it off his chest. Which one are you doing?” is only one fine example of Otis’s wisdom which helps Mr. Honeycutt, and in turn, all the Honeycutts recover. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys realistic historical fiction with an uplifting message.

Izzy, Willy-Nilly  
by Cynthia Voigt 

Izzy is a 15 year old girl who seems to have it all: a popular group of friends, a normal upper middle class family, she’s a cheerleader, and she's very pretty. Pretty enough for a senior to notice Izzy and take her on a date to a party. This party ends in disaster. 

When Izzy is being driven home by her intoxicated date, the car crashes, and Izzy ends up losing her leg. Her family tries to be supportive, but they have no idea how to handle such a tragedy. Her friends don't know how to cope either, and abandon her. With Izzy attempting to cope with her pain on her own, a schoolmate, Rosamunde, starts to visit her at the hospital, and they form a strong friendship. Spending time with Rosamunde helps Izzy to cope with her loss and grow as a person.

This book does a fantastic job of showing Izzy's roller coaster ride of emotions: shock, nonchalance, grief, and finally, depression. The representation of depression was realistic and very relatable. Izzy was abandoned and betrayed by her friends, who feel too awkward to know how to be around her. I found myself sympathizing with and relating to Izzy. Fortunately, she forms true friendships with Rosamunde, and another schoolmate, Tony. 

I was very happy with the ending of this book. It felt complete, and ended on a high note. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read realistic fiction with a relatable lead female character.

Anna Elizabeth Graham is a 15 year old homeschooler. She loves reading and writing (obviously), playing the piano, and catching up on her favorite television shows, Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. :)  



  1. These are wonderfully written, thoughtful reviews. It's great to hear from young people who read and write! It's becoming more and more rare, I'm afraid.

    1. I agree, Rosi. Anna's reviews are so well done that I just wanted to post them here. Thanks for speaking up. I'm sure your affirmation means a lot to her!

    2. Thank you for your kind words Rosi! It would be nice if more people my age had a larger interest in reading and writing. :)

  2. thanks for posting the full reviews. Anna is a jewel!

    1. I had fun writing them. Thank you both for giving me the opportunity to do so. :)

  3. Joyce,
    I'm glad you included Comfort in the mix. It's historical fiction (another plus in my mind) that includes a parent and child with "disabilities." I am convinced I should check out Izzy Willy-Nilly after reading Anna's terrific review. Thanks Anna. Superb job!

    1. Linda, I also need to read Izzy! Anna hooked me.

    2. Knowing that someone plans on a reading a book after reading my reviews is the best compliment I could have. Comfort was certainly an enjoyable read as well. I hope you enjoy Izzy Willy-Nilly! :D

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