- Author – Pat Mervine
- # of Pages – 26
- *includes illustrations
How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname) is a story told by a fourth grade classmate of Katie, the new girl in school. Everyone in the school has a nickname related to individual interests and personalities. When Katie comes into the class, the students are eager to involve her in their activities and to learn what is special about her. This proves to be quite a challenge. Katie has significant physical disabilities. How can Katie fit in with her classmates when she can’t even talk? When Katie is introduced to assistive technology, she is finally able to communicate with her new friends. As a result, the students are delighted to see her as a person with many interests and abilities, just like them. Katie knows she is a valued member of the school when she is given her own special nickname.
Just like its theme, there is a very special concept that differentiates between this book and many other books for young readers. Most times stories written for young kids try to emphasize the idea that being different is okay, and go against the idea of herd mentality – a term that describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items. In this case, the book’s starting point is that everyone is different. Miguel, nicknamed “The Punster,” makes up nicknames for kids and staff at school based on what makes them unique (such as Picasso the painter or Tunes the music lover). When Katie shows up he can’t figure out a name for her since she can’t… do anything. Katie doesn’t move or play or talk. She just laughs and looks around. Usually, Katie would be the “special” one, as we often use the word “special” in a negative connotation to hint at disabled kids. However, here her disability specifically is not considered an issue with the kids, they just can’t figure out how to include her in the group. After explaining the issue to her teacher Katie gets sent to a speech therapist, and eventually is connected to a machine that allows her to draw, play music and even talk! The kids, by turn, exclaim out loud that Katie can now participate in their hobbies – reading, painting, playing music, and even cheerleading for the sports team. Now, when they can get to know her, Katie can be given a nickname as well, one that showcases, of course, her uniqueness.
The book How Katie Got a Voice takes a very delicate subject and handles it beautifully. It shows kids that being unique is important, and it also teaches skills such as asking for help and including everyone in the group. When the kids don’t know how to play with Katie or share their hobbies with her they turn to a teacher for help. They don’t avoid Katie, or the problem at hand, and instead choose to actively search for a solution. They want to be able to hang out with their new friend, even if she’s unlike any other kid they’ve met, because that’s what makes kids cool – being different. Moreover, the book had both male and female characters. Many books these days don’t have enough important female characters with actual lines and importance, and so it’s important to start writing well developed characters for both genders in books aimed at kids and young children.
The book’s last pages include some simple tips for kids when dealing with people with disabilities, such as not staring at them or asking about their condition unless they bring it up first. The tips explain that even when someone needs an interpreter or assistant to communicate, you should speak to the person and not the companion, and most importantly, be patient. The author’s website includes a PowerPoint presentation called “Katie’s Lesson in Disability Etiquette,” aimed to help teachers introduce students to the topic.
In conclusion, this is a very good book for kids. It’s relatively short and easy to read, allowing young kids to read it themselves. The illustrations are colorful and very pretty. More importantly, the book deals with many important subjects that parents often don’t know how to bring up with their kids. How Katie Got a Voice can assist parents and teachers in introducing these topics and starting discussions about them with their children. I highly recommend the book both for reading at home, and for reading in class.
*I received a free copy of this book from Story Cartel in exchange for my honest review.
My father knows twenty three languages, not including various baby dialects. My father has two first names and two last names and three more in the middle. And a hyphen. My father is a hyphenated guy. My father is the one billion and sixth tallest man in the world. My father gave birth to himself. My father was a published poet at the age of twelve, and wrote his first biography at nineteen. The sequel, Plus One Year, made him the first twenty year old bestselling author. My father has read Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus, the longest novel in the world. And at the point he didn’t even know French. My father made it around the world in eighty days. By foot. My father’s brain is faster than my calculator. My father’s cursive is legible. My father never burns his toast. My father knows when the avocado is ripe. My father can build a card house in the wind. My father can take money out of a piggy bank without breaking it. My father’s teeth are whiter than my wall. My father has a black belt in all forms of martial arts. My father is a professional dancer. On ice and underwater. My father is best friends with the prime minister of Israel. My father is best friends with the president of Palestine. My father has managed to keep this a secret from both of them. My father never finds himself stuck without a bookmark. My mother says my father is an expert at lying. My father says he’s actually just a very good story-teller.
Random-point-in-life-crises usually happen at night. Not saying just “mid-life” because this shit usually happens much earlier than that. Unless your life is halfway up by the time you’ve hit puberty. Or finished high school. Or finished college or got fired or really just had any terrible night at an age where you could form coherent thoughts. They usually happen after watching some indie film, or just anything in a foreign language, while making yourself feel guilty for not doing the things you’re actually supposed to be doing.
All of a sudden from master procrastinator and quite possibly soda addict you’ve gone into full philosopher mode. Everything becomes so profound you’re not even sure anymore whether you seriously feel like you’re drowning or if at this point you’re just mocking yourself. Plato, Aristotle, Kant – they’ve got nothing on you. If your questions and queries become any more questioningly inquiring the universe just might fall apart. No, not the universe. Reality. Anything outside of your own mind is unsure, the external world cannot be known, and might not even exist. You realize you’re quoting the Wikipedia article on solipsism and then you’re fucking proud of yourself for reading philosophy articles on the internet.
At this point you’ve grown hungry, possible even starving, because really who knows or understands anything at all. Desires cannot be measured. Nothing makes sense. Everything is a lie. You go search for food, possibly stopping to impart some information to your cat, if you’ve got one.
You’re not really sure what to do now. In some faraway part of your brain you realize the wise decision would be to go to sleep. You organize your computer files and scroll through endless Buzzfeed posts instead. Eventually the panic of going to sleep once it’s light outside settles in. There’s something unsettling about going to sleep when the entire sky is shouting at you that you’ve missed the opportunity to rest. It’s like being yelled at by your mother, but on a whole other scale. Also, the sky is blue. You crawl into bed, promising yourself you’ll shower first thing tomorrow morning. Well, it’s not exactly tomorrow – technically speaking it’s already tomorrow now. That’s supposedly unimportant stuff but at this time, in this state of mind, it’s actually vital you take a moment to recognize this technicality.
The antidote to over thinking, over analyzing, and life crisis-ing is not-night-time. Once it’s properly day again you realize how stupid you are and how unproductive it is to waste away the night, thus ruining the following day as well. You’ve literally achieved nothing. In fact, you’ve even regressed because now you’re very tired, you’ve eaten way more than you ever planned on eating and you have a brand new stock of terrible poetry saved in various states of completeness all over your computer.
Really, your entire life is one big crisis. You can feel the clock ticking, the time passing by. You still haven’t discovered the meaning of life. You’ve probably just gained a few pounds, lost a couple of inches from sleep deprivation, and ruled out a future in creative writing.
Well, considering the fact that you’re a fully formed human who still has no clue what that even means and you’re hopelessly confused about practically everything, and you’re going to die anyway and probably be forgotten the minute it happens, that’s actually a considerable achievement for one night, don’t you think?