Keep Your Ear on the Ball
Illustrated by Lea Lyon
Hardcover, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-88448-296-3
9 x 10, 32 pages, color illustrations
Moonbeam Award, 2008 (Bronze, Picture Book—All Ages)
"This is a wonderful story! It's an inspiring example of how children are able to understand and respect differences in others—all on their own. This class used creativity and teamwork to include their classmate Davey in a game of kickball, and Davey learned that he can accept help from others and still remain independent."
—Maria Runyan, educator and runner, the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics
"Keep your Ear on the Ball is utterly charming and true to life! How do you go to school with a classmate who is blind? The children work out the answer in a practical, satisfying way. What I especially like about the story is the personality that comes across in the "can-do" attitudes of Davey and his classmates—American inventiveness and practicality wins again. By the way, I know "Davey" today as an adult with a professional job, a wife, and children of his own. He is now helping blind students in his state to learn the can-do attitude that helped him so well when he was in Miss Petrillo's class."
—Lorraine Rovig, National Federation of the Blind
Everybody wants to help Davey. "Let me open that." "Do you want to hold my hand?" Davey has one answer for all, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Davey is blind—and he is perfectly capable of doing everything on his own. His well-meaning classmates stop offering help when they see how able Davey is. They respect his self-reliance—until he tries to play kickball. After several missed kicks and a trampled base keeper, no one wants Davey on his team.
Working together, the children figure out a way to offer help that respects Davey's unique abilities and his desire for freedom. In this seamless tale, based on a true story, the children realize that interdependence can be just as important and rewarding as independence.
Genevieve Petrillo has been teaching elementary students at School Ten in Belleville, New Jersey, for thirty-four years. David DeNotaris was in her classroom many years ago, and Keep Your Ear on the Ball is a true story. She tells us: "David DeNotaris was in my class after I'd been teaching for about four or five years. The NJ Commission for the Blind offered a one-day summer "training" session, which I attended, as had his kindergarten, first-, second-, and third-grade teachers before me. I learned a lot that day, but I had no idea how much more I was about to learn.
For one thing, after an art project, when I was telling the children, "No, you may not wash the paste off your hands. Just rub them together and the paste will come off, I certainly didn't expect this little firecracker with the funniest smirk on his face to come to my desk and say, "I HAVE to wash my hands. This is the finger I READ with!"
The New Jersey Commission for the Blind provided us with all of David's textbooks done in Braille, and a few other accommodations including a kickball with a bell in it, which David didn't feel he needed. They also sent a Braille teacher, who came to school to work with David a few times a week.
I lost touch with David for a while, when he was in high school and college. We reconnected when I wrote an article about him for the End of the Day page in Instructor Magazine. Since then, we have stayed in touch and he has visited my classroom a few times to talk to the kids.
There are many surprises in my job, every day. One of the things I enjoy most is watching kids learn to cooperate, care for each other, solve problems, and devise a Plan B if the problems come back. It's a universal concept in elementary school, always the same, but always different, and it feels just as wonderful every time it happens.
Lea Lyon is an illustrator who lives in Richmond, California. She has also illustrated Say Something and Playing War for Tilbury House. Lea juggles her work in the business world with her love of painting, takes numerous painting and drawing classes, and even meets with a group of five women every week to paint and talk about their work. Lea enjoys working with area students on her book-illustration projects. She visits a classroom to read aloud and discuss a book manuscript, shows the students sketches she's made for a "book dummy," and asks them to model some of the scenes while she takes reference photos for her paintings. She visits again while the work is underway, to show the students the progress she's making with her paintings, and then comes back with a finished book, to thank them for their help! For more about Lea: www.lealyon.com
Tilbury House, Publishers
103 Brunswick Avenue
Gardiner, Maine 04345
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