Wednesday, October 28, 2020


Gennari, Jennifer. Muffled.
October 27th 2020 by Simon & Schuster
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Amelia has auditory sensitivity, and struggles to cope with loud noises. She has been wearing noise canceling headphones at school, but these have also lead to her social isolation. As she begins fifth grade, her parents and therapist have decided that she should try to be less dependent on the headphones. Her father buys her a pair of fuzzy purple ear muffs to help with the transition. Amelia likes the earmuffs and takes great comfort in them, although they do not filter out noises as much as she would like. Her teachers are somewhat sensitive to her needs, but are unwilling to let her out of the music elective at school. Her mother, worried about Amelia's lack of friends and reliance of escaping into books, wants Amelia to leave even the ear muffs behind. Amelia tries choir, but finds that to be too challenging, and ends up in band. She tries the flute, but finds it to be very high pitched. On one trip to the Boston Public Library (she has her own transit card to encourage her independence), she meets a trombone player, and finds that that instrument is very soothing. She still has to put up with classmates who don't understand, and her mother, who still insists that Amelia try to cope with noise without any tools, although this usually proves to be too difficult. When she has to navigate a big band concert, Amelia doesn't do the job she would like to do, but is able to make her parents and teachers understand how difficult it is for her to navigate the noisy world. Luckily, her mother finds ear buds that subdue background noises, which will be more effective.
Strengths: This is a good depiction of how auditory sensitivity manifests itself in a school setting, so is great for readers who want to learn about the experiences of others in order to be more empathetic. The reaction of Amelia's classmates seems very accurate. I very much identified with the mother even as I could see the error of her ways-- she should have understood Amelia's sensory difficulties more, but as a parent, you do not want your child to be a target because they are different. The father's style is a good foil for her overconcerned one. Like Mackler's Not If I Can Help It, this is a great book showing the many ways that a sensitivity can affect learning and social life.
Weaknesses: While Gennari doesn't have auditory sensitivity issues herself, there are members of her family who do. I feel that she is qualified to write this story and does a good job, but it is worth mentioning. It was sad that the teachers didn't seem to have all of the information they needed to help Amelia; I've come to the conclusion that my school does a slightly better job than some schools in helping students with differences. (We had an 8th grader last year who wore the headphones, and she did occasionally seek refuge in the library during noisy study halls.)
What I really think: This is a tiny bit young, but definitely a good book for students who want to read about characters who are not like them and who face challenges, so I will purchase it if I have the funds.

Ms. Yingling

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