Fielding for Fairness

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy
By Bill Wise
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
(Lee and Low Books, 2012, New York, $18.95)

It is hard to imagine a silent baseball game: the crack of the bat, the cheers of the crowd, and the umpire’s calls are integral to most people’s experience of the sport. But one early pro demonstrated that hearing is not necessary for success. In the late nineteenth century, a deaf outfielder named William Hoy, set records in stolen bases, assists, and double plays, some of which persist today. After retiring from the major leagues, the resilient Hoy worked as a dairy farmer and personnel manager and served as a coach and umpire in deaf leagues.

In Silent Star, Bill Wise and illustrator Adam Gustavson tell William Hoy’s inspiring story. The picture-book biography follows Hoy from his boyhood in rural Ohio through his triumphs in the majors to his busy retirement. Wise’s clear prose conveys both the thrill of the game and the poignancy of certain moments in Hoy’s life, especially his victories on the field. Silent Star has too much text for the youngest readers and listeners, but it should engage early middle-graders. Gustavson’s oil paintings capture both the same excitement and restrained emotion. In one spread, a young Hoy retreats from a group of smirking boys, who have been bullying him for his deafness; his mouth is firm and his eyes wistful. In another, Hoy stands at home plate and signs a greeting to a pitcher: for the first time in his career, he is squaring off against a deaf opponent

Silent Star will alter the way both hearing and deaf children regard ability, disability, and competition. It is also a remarkable tale of one person’s persistence and success in the face of extraordinary odds – a familiar theme that can never be overdone.

-Dorothy A. Dahm





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