Thursday, August 2, 2007

Moses Goes to a Concert

Millman, Isaac. (1998). Moses Goes to a Concert. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374350671.

This is the story of Moses, a hearing impaired, or as he self describes, “deaf.” Moses loves to play his drum with his shoes off so that he can “hear” the vibration through his feet.

One day, Mr. Samuels takes Moses and his classmates—who are all deaf—on a field trip. A surprise trip to see an orchestra. But the important part is that Mr. Samuels knows the percussionist in the orchestra and she is also deaf. Mr. Samuels explains that a percussionist is someone who not only plays drums, but also cymbals, “and even a piano.”

When the percussionist comes out before the concert to take a bow, Moses notices right away that she’s not wearing any shoes—just like he does at home when he plays his drum!

When the music starts, Mr. Samuels give each of the eleven students a balloon. “Hold them in your laps,” signs Mr. Samuels. “They’ll help you feel the music.”

After the concert, Mr. Samuels takes the kids on stage to meet the percussionist who then tells the students the story of how she became deaf and then learned to be a musician. And then, she even let them try her instruments.

When Moses gets home, he tells his parents all about his field trip and says that you can do anything you put your mind to—and that he will one day become a percussionist, too.

Moses Goes to a Concert is an EXCELLENT book! The text itself is simple and accessible to children of all ages while the illustrations are cartoon-like—not only visually appealing but very instructive as well. On each two-page spread, Moses shows the reader how to sign a sentence that goes along with that part of the story.

When the children meet the percussionist, she signs part of how she became a musician and the reader gets to see the signs. The same goes for Moses when he gets home and signs his story of the field trip to his parents, complete with the illustrated signs.

It has become a popular trend to teach non-hearing impaired children signs—even to young infants. But so often, these signs are taught one by one as vocabulary words, rather than in an authentic conversational sentence. This is where this book is different. The sentences signed on the page are complete sentences in an actual story context, some of the words repeated several times during the story. There is also an illustrated sign alphabet at the end of the book.

What a great way to introduce children to sign language—making it as accessible as a cartoon. AND what a wonderful way for deaf children to see THEMSELVES in children’s literature! There is a great cultural variety of characters, too—showing that the hearing impaired come in all shapes, sizes and colors!

Reviews (via

Publishers Weekly:
The seemingly incongruous premise of this harmonious debut?a class of deaf children attends an orchestral concert?leads to a revelation for readers who may well have assumed that the ability to hear is a prerequisite for enjoying music. Holding balloons that their teacher passes out to help them "feel the music," Moses and his classmates are thrilled to pick up the vibrations. Afterward, they visit with the orchestra's deaf percussionist, who, intriguingly, performs in stocking feet so she, too, can feel the beat. She lets the students play her instruments and, using American Sign Language (precisely illustrated in easy-to-read diagrams), explains how she worked hard to achieve her career goal. Back home, Moses tells his parents about his day, signing a message of universal value: "When you set your mind to it, you can become anything you want." An introductory note explains how to interpret the sign-language diagrams, which are integrated throughout the clear and colorful illustrations. Fiction and instruction make beautiful music together on these cheerful pages. Ages 5-up.

Millman's story, illustrated in delicate watercolors, ought to pop open a few young eyes (and perhaps some adult eyes as well). Moses and his school chums, all deaf, are off to a young people's concert. They take their seats up front, where a row of percussion instruments is arrayed between them and the orchestra. When the percussionist appears, she is in her stocking feet; she is deaf, and will feel the music through the floor. Moses's teacher hands out balloons that they will hold in their laps and that will help them feel the music. After the concert the percussionist, using sign language, gives the students a little inspirational talk, which Moses delivers to his parents later that evening. The power of Millman's book comes from the simple fact that he levels the playing field; of course deaf children go to concerts, but conveying how they enjoy music removes yet one more barrier between those who can hear and those who cannot. Moses also appears in inset boxes, signing comments aimed at readers and encouraging them to attempt signs. A few spreads are given over entirely to signed conversations, with effectively diagrammed hand movements and facial expressions. The final page illustrates the signed letters of the alphabet. (Picture book. 5- 9)

School Library Journal:
PreSchool-Grade 2?A group of deaf children is taken to a concert where the youngsters meet the percussionist, a friend of their teacher, and learn to their surprise that she is also deaf. She explains to Moses and his class how she became a percussionist even though she had lost her hearing and helps them understand that anything is possible with hard work and determination. She lets the children play on her instruments and feel the vibrations on balloons that their teacher has given them. 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

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