“It’s like everything is breathing quietly.”
‘Can Bears Ski?’ is an important book which has a main character who is hard of hearing. Bear thinks the world is quiet. Often missing questions, not hearing a hello or being asked a question that seems to be ‘can bears ski?’, Dad Bear decides to take them to an audiologist. Not only does this focus on deafness, which it is wonderful to see represented in books, it shows a lovely relationship between a father and his child. This is a touching story, which has beautiful illustrations by Polly Dunbar.
Guest post with Polly Dunbar
Growing up in a ‘deaf aware family’ is a strange thing to look back on because of course I never knew any different. My Mum Joyce Dunbar is a children’s book author, she is profoundly deaf and yet was never part of the Deaf world, she doesn’t sign but she’s an extraordinarily good lip reader. To a child lip reading can seem like a super power, my Mum couldn’t hear the bits and bobs I would natter to her on the way to school but she could hear something across the room that I would mouth silently to one of my toys- magic. In my mind my Mum’s deafness went hand in hand with her creativity, this isn’t always the case but my mum found she was no longer able to teach A-level English to large classes and in those days she felt she had to hide her deafness in case people felt she wasn’t up to the job, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. So she accepted it was time to stop and she was able to retreat into her inner world, her creative world.
When I was a child she wrote a book called Mundo and the Weather Child about boy going deaf and how he felt trapped inside a marble. Her editor once said to her you may not have good hearing but your ear for language is exquisite, isn’t that wonderful! Deafness is heredity in my family, my Mum’s hearing started to decline when she was just five years old, it was much later for me. I didn’t notice that I was having trouble until I was in my twenties, I started wearing hearing aids in my thirties. It perhaps wasn’t as alarming for me having grown-up with a deaf mum. My deafness is very slight in comparison to my Mum’s and she manages so well…so I know I can too. It’s not been a breeze, at first it felt like people were beginning to speak in a slightly different language, it’s not like everything goes quiet, only some frequencies are lost , so I’m left with bits of words that I have to stitch together in my mind, it takes a lot of concentration. The opportunity to illustrate Raymond’s Can Bears Ski ? was so wonderful, it’s helpful to children who perhaps are deaf or partially deaf and also children who are hearing, showing them what it is like to hear things differently, but very importantly, deafness aside, it’s a beautiful and touching story exploring the relationship between father and son. I hope my pictures have done it justice. Now I’m a Mum and my two boys have regular visits to the audiologist and they natter away to me on the way to school, I catch some of it and of course my lip-reading super powers are improving every day!
Like the sound of this book? Buy it here: https://amzn.to/3pcHiou
📚 Book gifted by publisher.