Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Boy builds empathy and understanding

Boy, by Phil Cummings/Illustrated by Shane Devries, (March 2018, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-739-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

A deaf young boy, growing up in a medieval village ravaged by a giant dragon, brings peace to all by simply encouraging them to listen. He speaks with his hands or by drawing pictures in the sand, but not everyone is patient enough to understand Boy – until he wanders into a big fight between the king’s troops and the dragon. He can’t hear everyone screaming for him to be careful, but looks up to see everyone staring at him. He asks them, via written message, why they’re all fighting, which sets off blame and pointing fingers on both sides. Turns out, it was all just a big misunderstanding that grew into years of conflict. The boy has helped bring about peace with his simple question, and teaches the villagers how to speak with their hands: and, most importantly, to listen.

Boy is all about empathy. By introducing a deaf protagonist, readers learn that sometimes, words get in the way; being able to take the time to understand and be understood is the key to brokering a peace between the kingdom and the dragon. I loved the poetic language used to describe how Boy communicates: “he spoke with dancing hands and he drew pictures for people in the sand”. The subdued art is sweet and will appeal to kids who love dragons and knights, just on a calmer scale. Introduce some ASL in this storytime: Jbrary has great tips and songs. I use the Hello and Goodbye songs in my toddler storytimes, and the kids love it. Introduce simple ASL like a fingerplay, and you’re teaching kids how to communicate in a new language.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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