Future Reflections        Summer 2012

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I Can't See, But ... I Can Imagine

by Patricia Bennett Wilson
Reviewed by Deborah Kent Stein

I Can't See, But ... I Can Imagine
by Patricia Bennett Wilson
Illustrated by Sharon Bean
Global Publishing Services, Bend, OR
<www.icantseebuticanimagine.com>
(541) 548-4138
61 pages, includes CD, $39.00 plus $3.50 shipping and handling

Book cover and CDWith varying degrees of success, a number of children's books present stories about blind children. Few, however, portray blind adults as active members of their families and communities. This picture book, available in both inkprint and print/Braille formats, is a loving tribute to the author's blind grandmother, Persis Beach Bennett, who lived in rural New Hampshire in the first half of the twentieth century.

Persis Beach Bennett lost her sight in 1925, when the youngest of her four children was ten years old. Her story is told from the point of view of her young granddaughter, Patty. Patty treasured her visits with Grammie, who "did all the wonderful things grandmothers do." The reader is introduced to Grammie as she and Patty bake cookies together, and learns that "Grammie measured [each ingredient] by feeling it in her hands." It is at this point that the reader finds out that Patty's grandmother is blind.

The book is constructed around five songs that Persis wrote for her grandchildren. The reader is given the story of how each song came to Grammie, followed by the lyrics. The imagined conversation between two frogs at the lake leads to "Frog Song." "Patty's Pup Pepper" is inspired as Grammie listens to Patty playing with her dog on the beach. Grammie's songs, re-mastered from recordings she made in 1949, are included on a CD packaged with the book.

Like most blind people of her day, Persis Bennett does not use a cane, and she depends upon family members to guide her when she walks "downstreet." Nevertheless, she clearly contributes to the life of her family in significant ways, and she has many devoted friends. Her imaginative take on the world shows that there is much more to vision than physical eyesight.

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