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Reading the Way 2 Reading the Way Research Welcome Executive Summary Introduction Objectives Our Book Selection Our Research Outcomes Key Findings Accessible Books Inclusive Books Translation Challenges Accessible Books in Brief Inclusive Books in Brief Recommendations Case Study 1: Featuring Symbols Case Study 2: Featuring Signs Case Study 3: Accessible and Inclusive Books Case Study 4: She and the Others Case Study 5: Alice's Heart Case Study 6: Lorenzo's Saucepan Case Study 7: Zitti's Cake Shop Case Study 8: Books Relevant to Visual Impairment Publicity Seminars Bibliography Activities Articles Booklists News Flash Information & Resources Anniversary Book Selections

Case Study 2: Books Featuring Signs


Books featuring sign language are rare, and where they do occur, they tend to take the form of functional 'dictionaries'.  OIW was pleased to identify and explore the following rather more unusual books featuring signs.

Talking Hands (Beszél a kéz)
Tamas Vincze (text) & Mari Takacs (Ills.)
Csimota Publishing House, Hungary, 2004
Language: Hungarian
(with Hungarian sign language) 


This is one of a series of three picture books that introduce signs.  A simple and structured book with an illustrated animal on every page, accompanied by its name (in Hungarian) and the associated sign (also Hungarian). The watercolour illustrations are bright and bold with one-word text to describe the animal, while the opposite page shows signs in pictures and with hands.


Members of the VFG commented positively on the bright, simple, colourful and amusing illustrations.

Dr. Butler thought that the book was both unusual and effective.  Describing it as venturing into territory "where success is against expectation" she observed:

"It deals with a technique used by a handful of disabled people in a language that hardly anyone understands. Against all the odds, it works".

Johnan Bannier felt the book had a positive feel and could promote discussion between an adult and child, with spontaneous copying of the signs. 

The panel liked the rich vocabulary it offered. Johnan Bannier welcomed the opportunity Talking Hands presented to talk about feelings, although she noted that there were some more difficult words (such as 'envious' and 'cute'). Patricia Billings commented that the mixture of animals and adjectives is entertaining, if not necessarily practical.

With regard to viability in the UK market, Johnan Bannier said she would definitely try to use an English version and Joanna Sholem agreed that if the signs were translatable then she would want to see this title available in English.


The overall response was positive.  It was agreed amongst our experts that sign language dictionaries tend to be quite 'dry' and that there would be a definite market for books such as this, which were more attractive and imaginative.


Humbug (Vaker)
Tamas Vincze (text) & Mari Takacs (Ills.)
Csimota Publishing House, Hungary, 2007
Language: Hungarian
(with Hungarian sign language)


Humbug is a similar style format to Talking Hands but is for an older age group.  It includes 'slang' words that would be readily understood by young people. The design of the book is very much concerned with its graphics.

"... Chat ... chatter ... babble ... talk ..."

" So many expressions and figures of speech used by young people to talk and get out what they want to say, but from today we can also express this through signs".

Although a picture book, and similar in format to Talking Hands in terms of the added Hungarian sign language, Humbug is completely different in its content, which is aimed at an older audience and covers a diverse range of subjects.


Translator Jennifer Rasell felt this book aimed to show how deaf people are not restricted in how they communicate and are just like any other young people who like to adopt 'cool' new expressions.

There were some expressions that the translator explained could not be translated such as 'AB!' and 'FO!' However Johnan Bannier felt it was possible that the exclamations were to do with lip shapes. "In BSL there are mouth patterns separate to pronouncing the word. It may be that these are used in other sign languages".


The panel were generally very positive, welcoming (in Patricia Billings’ words) the "hipness, tech-awareness, diversity and energy".

Johnan Bannier told us that:

"a deaf reader would identify with the characters that are presented as pretty cool. Deafness and sign are seen as the norm and not as something 'different' to be observed.  The words and phrases include idiomatic language, useful to introduce deaf youngsters and promoting deafness and sign as currently trendy".

The panel applauded the contemporary feel of the illustrations; they were detailed and thought-provoking.  The use of slang and witty cheeky vocabulary provided plenty of mixed and interesting ideas to talk about.

It was noted that the images tend to move from subject to subject in a haphazard manner and could be difficult to interpret. It was also felt that some of the signing images were hard to understand.

Professor Lathey felt that this could be tricky to take to an English market because of the eternal problem of translating slang. 

Claire Ingham was pleased to see both Talking Hands and Humbug and felt that the design was creative and intriguing.  Such books could be certainly considered to represent good practice.  There is humour in the delivery and plenty of material for discussion in the illustrations. She felt there would be a definite market for books which were attractive and imaginative.


As with Talking Hands, this is a book which definitely represents good practice in terms of both including sign language, but also doing so in a stylish and contemporary way.  OIW considers that while a translation for UK audiences would not be straightforward due to the complexities of translating the Hungarian sign language and also the slang, there is much to learn from the books in terms of the unusual and eye-catching presentation of signs.

OIW identified two other titles which we feel are worth commenting on briefly:

Kaitlin the Cat and her Clan of Mice
(H Gata Koumbara)
S. Mitakidou, E. Tressou and A. L. Manna (text)
S. Fortoma (Ills.), Kaleidoscope Publications, 2006 Language: Greek 

This title from Greece is produced in several different formats – standard book format and large format with accompanying audio CD and an eBook signed version available through the publishers' website. OIW concluded that children’s books should be available in as many formats as possible.


Listen to My Hands (Escucha mis manos)
Alvarito Cuevas (text), Raúl Ramón Ramírez, (photos), Ediciones Tecolote, Mexico, 2007
(with sign language)
Language: Spanish 

Listen to My Hands is an instructive and simple picture book that uses photographs of a child who cannot hear or speak expressing herself through the use of sign language.  OIW feels that there is a need for books such as this in terms of featuring young deaf people signing.  The photographs allow for facial expressions, which make the signs easier to read and the message more powerful.  The layout is simple and effective and the book as a whole is attractive and interactive.



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