As promised, today I give you my thoughts on the book Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
The high school rock band Dumb is soaring after their big win at Seattle’s Battle of the Bands. Piper Vaughn is fuming over a family betrayal. Their usually separate worlds collide in the hall one afternoon. In a moment of outrage Piper manages to insult the band and land a job with them. As the new manager of Dumb Piper must get the band a paying gig within a month. It is immediately obvious that the five band members are going to be a handful. Juggling their personalities is a full-time job on its own. What is not immediately obvious to Piper is the band’s talent. The trickiest part of her job is to promote a band that she cannot hear.
While her disability doesn’t stop her at school and with the band it has been causing tension at home ever since her parents used her college fund to pay for cochlear implants for her baby sister. Mourning the loss of the deaf connection with her sister, angry at a father who doesn’t sign, and missing her best friend, Piper throws herself into the band. It’s a rocky road to Dumb’s first paid performance, but along the way Piper discovers Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and the real Piper Vaughn.
I LOVED this book. First of all the cover? Awesome:
Ok, on to the story. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book about a deaf girl and a rock band, but it works. The author masterfully weaves multiple storylines into a compelling and cohesive whole. This is not just a book about being deaf or being in a rock band. It’s more than that. It is about rising to a challenge, overcoming obstacles, and coming out the other side with a better understanding of yourself. It’s the story of two music icons, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. It’s the story of a family thrown off-balance, working to set things right again. It’s a story about personal histories, and friendship, and forgetting what you thought you knew about yourself and others. It’s the story of Dumb, five separate flavors, struggling to be whole. It’s the story of how Piper Vaughn, deaf girl, learns that you just have to feel the music to be a rock star. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John is an inspiring feel-good read and impossible to put down.
I loved Piper Vaughn. She is smart, determined, and hilarious. She makes mistakes, but she owns them and learns from them. She is a master at the art of sarcasm. Her transformation throughout the course of the book is subtle, but powerful. I also appreciated her family. It is refreshing to read about a normal family. And by normal I mean a family that has problems and arguments and even resentments, but still manages to find ways to show that they care. The five flavors of the Vaughn family blend beautifully. I wish there was more.
Finally, congratulations to Antony John and Five Flavors of Dumb for winning the 2011 Schneider Family Book Award. This award honors an author or illustrator whose work embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for children and adolescent audiences.
Suggested read alikes: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, Rocky Road by Rose Kent, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk, Born to Rock by Gordon Korman, Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway