Future Reflections Winter/Spring 1997, Vol. 16 No. 1

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Book Review

Extraordinary People With Disabilities
by Deborah Kent and Kathryn A. Quinlan
Children's Press, 1996

* Review by Doris M. Willoughby

This book brings together 48 biographies of people who made their mark upon the world and who had various disabilities. Each article is three or four pages long. Children in the upper elementary grades and above can read this book for themselves, and younger children can understand it when it is read aloud.

Some of the people featured are very well-known, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Helen Keller. Others are not as famous but have made important contributions. The general style of writing is upbeat and interesting without being mushy.

Eight of the featured persons were/are blind or visually impaired. Also, one of the authors, Deborah Kent, is herself blind.

Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, founder and first president of the National Federation of the Blind, is included. A candid photo shows him surrounded by microphones on a street corner. Presumably on a small platform, he stands higher than the reporters around him. As he speaks, he is reading from Braille pages which are supported on top of an assistant's head. (A real-life portrayal, for sure!)

The biography of Louis Braille includes a clear explanation of why raised print was and is impractical.

In addition to the actual biographies, there are several short chapters which discuss background and issues (including attitudes toward disabilities) in a concise, clear manner. These, also, are matter-of-fact and positive in tone.

A glossary defines important terms. Furthermore, when a term such as abolition [of slavery] is first used in the text, a definition is often given on the spot.

The only "drawback" which I noticed was that, as an adult reading the book through from cover to cover, I began to feel that the style was somewhat repetitive. However, this same characteristic is also an advantage, since an important purpose is reference; many readers may select only a few chapters as they research a given disability. Also, a consistent style can make reading easier for young readers.

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