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Of Sound Mind

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Overview

Tired of interpreting for his deaf family and resentful of their reliance on him, high school senior Theo finds support and understanding from Ivy, a new student who also has a deaf parent.

Tired of interpreting for his deaf family and resentful of their reliance on him, high school senior Theo finds support and understanding from Ivy, a new student who also has a deaf parent.

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Overview

Tired of interpreting for his deaf family and resentful of their reliance on him, high school senior Theo finds support and understanding from Ivy, a new student who also has a deaf parent.

Tired of interpreting for his deaf family and resentful of their reliance on him, high school senior Theo finds support and understanding from Ivy, a new student who also has a deaf parent.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In what PW called "a taut novel," a high school senior who can hear and who knows sign language often finds himself in a burdensome and exhausting position in a family in which everyone else is deaf. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
In this emotionally taut novel Ferris (Bad; Eight Seconds) chronicles the conflicts of high school senior Theo, caught between the hearing and deaf worlds. Theo, who can hear and who knows sign language, often finds himself in a burdensome and exhausting position in a family in which everyone else is deaf. For example, at age 11 he negotiated the purchase of his parents' house when he "didn't know what a lot of terms he had to use even meant, much less how to sign them to his parents." Theo forms a romantic relationship with a new girl, Ivy, who also signs because she has a deaf father, and his own stoic, peacemaking father suffers a stroke. These two events motivate Theo to assert himself against his domineering mother, Parma. Ferris effectively establishes the manners and mores of the deaf community and American Sign Language, using examples such as Parma's rudeness when she clasps her youngest son's hands to shut him up, and describing the signers' habit of watching facial and body language intently and their suspicions about "hearies." An eclectic and appealing cast of characters, including the bickering retirees Harry and Hazel, propel the drama. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2001: Theo is a senior in high school, the son of a famous sculptor, the only hearing person in his family. This means from the time he was a little boy, he has been frequently asked by his parents to translate, in sign language, so they can understand what they need to know. This has given him a great deal of responsibility, and he doesn't see how he will ever be able to leave his parents and little brother, who are so dependent on him. Imagine his surprise when he meets a new girl at school who shares his bilingual ability: Ivy's father is deaf and she too has been the main interpreter for him all her life. Ivy and Theo are absolutely terrific young people—smart, responsible, thoughtful. Their friendship turns into romance, but is volatile as well. Ivy urges Theo to pursue his own life, to apply to MIT far away from his family; and Theo points out to Ivy that she is caught in an endless whirl of nurturing, wanting to mother everyone—is this because her own mother deserted her? When Theo's father becomes seriously ill, Ivy is helpful, but still pushing Theo to get on with his own life, to defy his mother and leave home. Ferris manages to convey conversations well, using bold letters to indicate what is being signed rather than spoken. The plight of the child who can communicate with the outside world, forced to translate for parents in situations such as doctor's examinations, housing transactions, and legal hearings, is a poignant one. The cover art and title make one think. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Farrar,Straus and Giroux, Sunburst, 215p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
VOYA
Theo is a high school senior whose parents and younger brother are deaf. As the only hearing person in his family, he serves as family interpreter. His mother, Palma, a successful sculptor and rather a prima donna, tends to take Theo's role for granted, whereas his father tries hard not to burden his son. When Theo meets Ivy, a new girl in school living with her father, who is also deaf, being hearing children of deaf parents brings them together. Then Theo finds that he really enjoys spending time with Ivy and is attracted to her. Ivy prods Theo to look at himself and his feelings about his family. When Theo's father suffers a stroke, Palma expects Theo to be responsible for his care, virtually absenting herself from the situation. Ivy and other concerned friends step up to help Theo, who eventually starts to consider his own needs. Ferris has written an absorbing novel with a strong, endearing protagonist. Theo's loyalty to his family and his resentment of their neediness make him sympathetic. Ivy is charming and interesting. The relationships between the characters ring true, including the secondary characters. Theo's brother Jeremy, for example, gets to know Ivy's dad. The only rather flat character is Palma, who seems two-dimensional compared to the others. Regardless, this fine novel explores a world about which most people know little. It will have broad appeal to male and female readers and belongs in public and school libraries. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001.224p, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer:Alice F. Stern
From The Critics
Theo, the hearing son of deaf parents and the big brother of Jeremy who is also deaf, feels the strain of responsibility as his family's main link to the hearing world. Theo's mother, Palma, is a famous sculptor who demands Theo act as a pseudo-parent for Jeremy. As a high school senior, Theo pines for the freedom and stimulation of college, but is torn by his seemingly indispensable family role. Author Jean Ferris allows readers to discover the psychological underpinnings of family dynamics as Theo confronts his growing resentment towards his family. The pressure on Theo reaches insurmountable proportions when his dad becomes ill, and his mother, Palma, retreats to her artist's studio. Ultimately, his new-found friend, Ivy, helps him negotiate shifting family roles. Although this book offers many explicitly stated lessons that can feel didactic, the themes related to family roles, deafness, and nurturing are so intricate that readers will welcome the complexity and inspiration within. Genre: Realistic Fiction/Deafness 2001, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 215 pp., $16.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Sherron Killingsworth Roberts; Orlando, Florida
Children's Literature
What is it like to grow up hearing in a soundless world? Theo's parents and younger brother are deaf and Theo ends up being the intermediary between his family and the hearing world. Theo's mother, a famous sculptor, demands that he be her interpreter. He feels weighted down by the responsibilities of dealing with agents and gallery owners for his mother, Jeremy's teachers and his father's medical needs. His perspective is forever changed, however, when he meets Ivy, who has a deaf father. Through their friendship they both realize that their problems are caused by their view of themselves. Theo resents being his mother's interpreter and the decision-maker and caregiver in his family, but becomes jealous when others assume the role. Ivy, whose mother abandoned her as an infant, cooks food for others to make up for the lost nurturing. Theo realizes it is up to him to break away; that he is not indispensable, but others can fill his role. The story is fast moving and adolescents should appreciate Ivy and Theo's interactions as well as how they relate to their families. 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 13 to 16. Reviewer: Janet L. Rose AGES: 13 14 15 16
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Theo, a high school senior, loves his family but resents his ever-increasing burden of responsibility. As the only hearing person among them, he is pressed into the role of interpreter for his deaf parents and brother. He must rush home from school to make phone calls for his mother or to accompany his father to the doctor's office and translate embarrassing personal information. His spoiled, petulant mother is an artist who believes "hearies" can't be trusted-a troubling concept for Theo, who wonders if she includes him in that category. When his father has a stroke, she falls apart and the teen's plans for college are threatened. He's also wrapped up in a new romance with Ivy, who speaks both of his languages because her father is deaf. Theo's dilemma is poignantly drawn, but the end of the story will prove unsatisfying to many readers. Theo's problems are too easily resolved by the appearance of a quirky elderly couple who learn sign language almost overnight. While the protagonist does come to understand his mother's fears and gains insight into her personality, he never really confronts her. Even the eventual death of his father lacks strong emotional impact. However, for those teens with a keen interest, this is a fascinating window into the deaf culture and the intricacies of sign language.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Theo's problems are both unusual and ordinary, as the only hearing child in a family otherwise deaf, and as the child of a parent who selfishly forgets who is the adult. Many oldest children may have the martyr syndrome going, but few with the resounding excuses of an artistically gifted deaf mother who relies on Theo for interpretation in her interactions with the world at large, a deaf brother who depends on Theo to be a parent, and a deaf father who quietly fills in the gaps, but refuses to rein in his wife. Flashy and gorgeous Ivy shows up at the bus stop and catches Theo signing swear words to himself. As the two discover elements in common and romance commences, they also find themselves unwilling to accept the other's point of view about past and future choices. His father's stroke heightens the pressure on Theo, forcing him to confront his own role. Ferris indicates speaking in sign with a boldface type and translates into English grammar to smooth the reader's way. Great sensitivity is shown to the deaf culture and yet Theo's position as the hearing one in his family is seen ultimately as both burden and gift. The core issue explored is the strain on a child whose parent is unwilling to parent, with deafness exacerbating the situation. Ivy's hearing mother has abandoned her to her deaf father, and so there is a contrast in circumstances and personality that provides conflict in addition to the events that unfold. Told from Theo's point of view, there is an unusual psychological richness that intrigues and keeps the somewhat stock characters from falling completely into cliche. A quiet story that resonates. (Fiction. 12+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756929701
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Professor of Education Arizona State University Dr. David Moore taught high school social students and reading in Arizona public schools before entering college teaching. He currently teaches secondary school teacher preparation courses in adolescent literacy. He co-chaired the International Reading Association's Commission on Adolescent Literacy and is actively involved with several professional associations. His twenty-five year publication record balances research reports, professional articles, book chapters, and books. Noteworthy publications include the International Reading Association position statement on adolescent literacy and the Handbook of the Reading Research chapter on secondary school reading. Recent books include Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading (2nd ed.) and Principled Practices for Adolescent Literacy.

Dr. Short is a division director at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a teacher, trainer, researcher, and curriculum/materials developer. Her work at CAL has concentrated on the integration of language learning with content-area instruction. Through several national projects, she has conducted research and provided professional development and technical assistance to local and state education agencies across the United States. She directed the ESL Standards and Assessment Project for TESOL and co-developed the SIOP model for sheltered instruction.

Professor, College of Education Temple University Dr. Michael Smith joined the ranks of college teachers after eleven years of teaching high school English. He has won awards for his teaching at both the high school and college levels. His research focuses on how experienced readers read and talk about texts, as well as what motivates adolescents' reading and writing both in and out of school. He has written eight books and monographs, including "Reading Don't Fix No Chevys": Literacy in the Lives of Young Men, for which he and his co-author received the 2003 David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. His writing has appeared in such journals as Communication Education, English Journal, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Journal of Educational Research, Journal of Literacy Research, and Research in the Teaching of English.

Associate Professor, Literacy Education Northern Illinois University Dr. Alfred Tatum began his career as an eighth-grade teacher, later becoming a reading specialist and discovering the power of texts to reshape the life outcomes of struggling readers. His current research focuses on the literacy development of African American adolescent males, and he provides teacher professional development to urban middle and high schools. He serves on the National Advisory Reading Committee of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and is active in a number of literacy organizations. In addition to his book Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap, he has published in journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Educational Leadership, Journal of College Reading and Learning, and Principal Leadership.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 12, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius" for TeensReadToo.com

    For Theo, dealing with deafness is simply a way of life. Being the only hearing person in a family that includes a deaf father, deaf mother, and deaf younger brother has taken it's toll on Theo--he doesn't have his own life, not really, since he's always dealing with interpreting for his family. His mother, Palma, is a famous sculptor, and she depends on Theo to make her phone calls, deal with galleries, and basically do anything and everything that she asks. His father, Thomas, is a furniture maker who was born being able to hear but lost his hearing later in life. Thomas hates asking Theo for anything, trying his best to communicate with hearing people on his own. His younger brother, Jeremy, needs Theo's help almost daily with his fifth-grade homework. For Theo, life is pretty much divided into two categories--talking with his voice to people who can hear, and talking with his hands to those who can't. <BR/><BR/>But then Theo meets Ivy, a girl in his school who can also hear and sign. Her father is deaf, but her mother, who abandoned the family long ago, was able to hear. Ivy is a nurturer with her own small catering business, and soon her world is intwined with Theo's. Her dad, who builds model airplanes for a hobby, even gets Thomas and Jeremy interested, and soon they're getting together as often as they can. <BR/><BR/>Then tragedy strikes when Theo's dad has a stroke. Suddenly, is demanding, diva-ish mother is acting even more incompetent than usual, refusing to even be alone in the same room as her husband once he comes home. Theo is forced to do everything from making sure his brother gets fed and off to school to hiring new caretakers for his father every time his mother fires one. <BR/><BR/>Then Ivy comes up with a plan--what about having Harry and Hazel, a brother and sister that Ivy caters for, come and take care of Thomas? They've been learning sign language from Ivy, and they know enough to communicate. Soon things are finally running smoothly in Theo's household, until tragedy strikes yet again. <BR/><BR/>OF SOUND MIND was such an interesting read, I didn't stop until I was finished. What would it be like, I wondered, to be the only hearing person in my house? What would it take to forget about being a kid and take on the responsibilities at such a young age that Theo had to, like negotiating the buying of his hosue at age eleven? What would I do if I believed my family couldn't survive without me? When does something like being deaf stop defining who you are? <BR/><BR/>Jean Ferris answers all these questions and more with OF SOUND MIND--a truly great book for people of all ages.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2006

    Book Review

    Of Sound Mind is the story of Theo a high school senior being the only hearing member of his family. Theo¿s mother is a famous artist with a problem taking responsibility. Theo has a very likeable brother and father. The reader feels sympathetic when Theo¿s father has a stroke and has to deal with rehabilitation. Theo has to take on a major role of leading his family. He is able to do this with the help of a girl, Ivy, who he meets at school. In the end Theo learns an important lesson about family. In Of Sound Mind Theo has the ability to speak and sign. When a character signs something it is bolded to show that it was signed. This adds a unique effect to the story because there are two different languages being spoken that the reader can understand. Theo spends a lot of time thinking about differences between sign language and English. He points out things the reader may have never thought about. For instance, a person who uses sign language cannot communicate with their hands full. He feels very strongly about sign language. ¿`It¿s not a game! It¿s somebody¿s life!...¿¿ (Ferris 71). Of Sound Mind is an interesting story any reader will enjoy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2006

    Libbie's Book Review

    ~ Of Sound Mind ~ Of Sound Mind by Jean Ferris, is a very unique book that will keep you on the edge of your seat. All the twists and turns, make you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. It all starts out being told in third person, and introducing the characters. However, like in all books new ones come along. Theo, the main character is a son of the two deaf parents and also has a deaf brother. ¿He notices that he had begun to mutter with his hands, an impulse that came automatically to those like him, who had learned American Sign Language as a first language.¿ (Ferris 1) Theo doesn¿t get along so much with his mom, because she is always in her art studio creating new work. Theo does get along with his father and brother, and he loves Ivy. You¿ll have to read to find out who she is (it¿s not the mom). Theo soon finds out that Ivy is raised only by her deaf father who thoroughly enjoys building model airplanes as she cooks for the neighbors. ¿ You want to come with me? I¿m going to visit a girl who's the best cook in the world¿. (Ferris 76) Some ¿scary¿ moments make the book even that more exciting. Theo¿s father gets really sick while at Ivy¿s house and they don¿t know if he is going to make it. ¿ Your father was taken ill at my house and has gone by ambulance to Mercy Hospital¿. (Ferris 107) Will he or won¿t he? Read this life changing book to find out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2006

    Katie- Good Book

    Of Sound Mind by Jean Ferris is a fictional novel that gives the reader a new perspective of life. Theo, the main character, is the only person who can hear in his family. His mother, father, and younger brother, Jeremy, are deaf. Theo has a huge responsibility within his family. He is the translator for his mother and brother. He is forced to help his mother with her job. This is seen in the following quote. ¿It was different with Palma. For her, Theo was a tool, an instrument, an extension of her will¿at least, that¿s how he saw it,¿ (Ferris 4). He also helps Jeremy with his homework. At school, Theo meets the new girl, Ivy, and connects with her in a special way because her father is deaf as well. As Theo tries to spend time with Ivy, his responsibilities at home begin to pile up because his father is hospitalized. ¿You father was taken ill at my house and has gone by ambulance to Mercy Hospital,¿ (Ferris 107). Throughout the whole book, Theo is thinking about his future. He cannot decide if he should leave his family and go to college or stay at home. ¿[T]hinking instead about the applications in his unemptied trash cans, most of which had had a due date of January first,¿ (Ferris 199). I really enjoyed reading this novel. I was given a new perspective of what life is like for deaf people. This book offers a splendid theme. It shows that no matter your troubles, have a good outlook on life. Theo might have the burden of taking care of his family, but he still enjoys life. Of Sound Mind was very well written. Ferris took into consideration that the reader might have to differentiate signing from talking. She made sure that when someone was signing, it was in a different font. This helped the reader to be able to enjoy the book more. I have discovered a new perspective of life since I have read Of Sound Mind by Jean Ferris.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2006

    Courtesy of Teens Read Too

    For Theo, dealing with deafness is simply a way of life. Being the only hearing person in a family that includes a deaf father, deaf mother, and deaf younger brother has taken it's toll on Theo--he doesn't have his own life, not really, since he's always dealing with interpreting for his family. His mother, Palma, is a famous sculptor, and she depends on Theo to make her phone calls, deal with galleries, and basically do anything and everything that she asks. His father, Thomas, is a furniture maker who was born being able to hear but lost his hearing later in life. Thomas hates asking Theo for anything, trying his best to communicate with hearing people on his own. His younger brother, Jeremy, needs Theo's help almost daily with his fifth-grade homework. For Theo, life is pretty much divided into two categories--talking with his voice to people who can hear, and talking with his hands to those who can't. But then Theo meets Ivy, a girl in his school who can also hear and sign. Her father is deaf, but her mother, who abandoned the family long ago, was able to hear. Ivy is a nurturer with her own small catering business, and soon her world is intwined with Theo's. Her dad, who builds model airplanes for a hobby, even gets Thomas and Jeremy interested, and soon they're getting together as often as they can. Then tragedy strikes when Theo's dad has a stroke. Suddenly, is demanding, diva-ish mother is acting even more incompetent than usual, refusing to even be alone in the same room as her husband once he comes home. Theo is forced to do everything from making sure his brother gets fed and off to school to hiring new caretakers for his father every time his mother fires one. Then Ivy comes up with a plan--what about having Harry and Hazel, a brother and sister that Ivy caters for, come and take care of Thomas? They've been learning sign language from Ivy, and they know enough to communicate. Soon things are finally running smoothly in Theo's household, until tragedy strikes yet again. OF SOUND MIND was such an interesting read, I didn't stop until I was finished. What would it be like, I wondered, to be the only hearing person in my house? What would it take to forget about being a kid and take on the responsibilities at such a young age that Theo had to, like negotiating the buying of his hosue at age eleven? What would I do if I believed my family couldn't survive without me? When does something like being deaf stop defining who you are? Jean Ferris answers all these questions and more with OF SOUND MIND--a truly great book for people of all ages.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2004

    Of Sound Mind

    I got this book b/c i am very interested in sign language and i had never read a fiction novel in which the characters were deaf. It was a really good book,in my opinion.I recommend this book b/c it has,what i call, 'real life issues'(dealing w/school and friendship and family)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2004

    Interesting, an insightful novel

    Of Sound Mind offers a valuable look at what it is like to live and associate with someone who is deaf. I found it a very heartwarming piece of work and I was so well occupied that I finished it in 2 days. This book is a definite eye opener and I think it would do people a lot of good to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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