Harper Gideons is a basketball player, a theater kid, a YouTuber, and a skier. Now the 13-year-old can add published author to the list. Along with her mother, Valli Gideons, she wrote “Now Hear This: Harper Soars With Her Magic Ears,” a funny, fact-based tale that chronicles her birth with hearing loss and her experiences with hearing aids, her “magic ears.” When she was a toddler, for example, she threw one into the gorilla cage at the zoo.
ORIGINS OF THE BOOK
Valli: When I started writing my blog (mybattlecall.com) and getting recognized as a voice for parents with kids who are deaf and hard of hearing, I started hearing people say, “You should write a book.” I didn’t feel like I was ready to tell my story in a book. People wanted that for me, but I didn’t want it for myself.
Harper: At school, our (fourth-grade) teacher would make us answer prompts, and one of the prompts was, what makes you unique? I wrote this colorful little thing in my journal: “I’m unique because I’m deaf.” At the end of the school year, I dumped all my stuff out of my backpack, and Mom was going through the journal, reading it, and she stumbled upon that prompt. And she had a spark: “This is what I should write my book about, not my story but Harper’s story.”
CAPTURING HOW A TWEEN TALKS
Valli: It’s told in Harper’s 12-year-old voice. So when I would try to write segments of it, that’s when I would hear, “That’s just dumb. I would never speak that way.”
Harper: I think if I wrote it now, the voice would be different. Me when I was 12 is way different than me when I’m 13.
COLLABORATING WITH AN ILLUSTRATOR
Valli: We worked with an illustrator (Priscila Soares) who’s also hard of hearing and her son has cochlear implants. She’d send us a draft and Harper would go, “My mouth looks like a lizard.” Priscila is so amazing, she would laugh and say, “I don’t want your mouth to look like a lizard. I want you to love these illustrations.” So she never had any ego about changes we wanted made. It was fun.
Harper: We wanted to capture my energy when I was little. We didn’t want to make it be like a cartoon of me.
REACTIONS TO THE BOOK
Harper: In a way, in my mind, I kept thinking this isn’t a real book. It was really weird when people asked me if they can buy it. Then people at school started coming to me asking me to autograph their book. It was bizarre. Hard to wrap your mind around.
Valli: There just wasn’t anything like it. My kids only have a few books about deaf and hard of hearing kids. The feedback I’ve gotten from parents is that their kids want to read it over and over and over. They love having a character that their kids can see themselves in. It’s also very encouraging without being sappy.