Uhlberg draws from his experiences with his deaf parents for this tale of mid-20th-century Brooklyn.
"Many things are loud. Please tell me better," the narrator’s father asks. Thus the son of deaf parents finds himself interpreting not only language, but sound itself. His father, who retains faint memories of hearing, insists that his son’s descriptions enable him to hear "in [his] mind." But expressing something as abstract as sound is daunting for a child, as an outing to bustling Coney Island illustrates. Papoulas' vivid paintings animate the setting and sentiment with photographic attention to faces and period details, silently evoking a din of everyday noises that seems impossible to convey. The narrator's frustration evokes sympathy, his squinting concentration palpable as he signs the woefully inadequate "loud." Despite his frequent use of figurative language—a roller coaster is "like thunder," and ocean waves crash "like a hammer"—he still doesn't have enough words. Finally, he asks a resourceful librarian for books on how to describe sound, and she returns with a promising volume of poetry. The narrator deftly and respectfully describes his conflicting feelings of love and resentment, sometimes envying other children who don't have to interpret for their fathers, but love wins out. Their affection for each other beams from their faces and hands.
A tender demonstration of how familial love is like translation—inexact, difficult, and beautiful. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-10)