Friday 11 August 2023

Alice’s Shoe

Alice’s Shoe by Julie Thorndyke, illustrated by Jennifer Harrison (MidnightSun Publishing) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9781922858139

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The cover of this hardback picture book is simply stunning! In what seems to be a delicately and beautifully computer-generated illustration, it shows a girl about five years of age with long brown hair (and ribbon), dressed in lovely blue frock and with bare feet. She is sitting on a rock with a pair of brown boots nearby, and with a background of eucalyptus trees. The fly pages are similarly stunning with a dedication from the author offering love and hope to all children everywhere who live with deafblindness.

This is a non-fiction book for readers aged 6+ years about a real-life girl, Alice Betteridge who, born in 1901, was the first deafblind person in Australia to be educated. (Alice has been described as our version of the famous American, Helen Keller). 

Like the illustrations, the written text is of a high quality as it relates Alice’s story from when she is an infant who dislikes wearing shoes, preferring to be barefooted. Diagnosed with deaf blindness at the Sydney Deaf and Blind School at Darlinghurst, Alice's parents are asked for her to be returned when she is five years old.

The deafblind Alice's experience of her environment is sensitively captured by Thorndyke, as the small child negotiates texture, warmth and coolness, and vibrations (such as the vibrations of the pipe organ and the shudder of wooden pews as people stand to sing in church). 

Finally at school, Alice meets her teacher, Miss Roberta Reid, who repetitively uses the deafblind alphabet with her hand and fingers. It takes many attempts before success comes, with Miss Reid continuously spelling out S-H-O-E (which Alice still eschews time and again). ‘Alice suddenly knew. She clutched the leather of her hated shoe. She made the finger signs on her own palm. She repeated it on Miss Reid’s hand.’ Finally, she can put a name to an object, which most certainly means that she could then learn to sign many more words.

MidnightSun Publishing, the author and illustrator of Alice’s Shoe should be proud of this outstanding book which is highly recommended for young readers.




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