Posts Tagged 'Long Island'

My favorite question? The one about being so pretty, of course

That's us at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst; clearly, Whitney is ready for her close-up.

That’s us at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst; clearly, Whitney is ready for her close-up.

Whitney started every presentation we did on Long Island this week with a whine and a moan. She wasn’t scared of the kids. She wanted to play with them!

Who can blame her? The kids were cute, cute, cute, but somehow Whitney managed to settle in and lie down by the time we got to the Q&A part of our presentations. Hearing them ask in those adorable Long Island accents made me want to gather them all up and play with them, too. Some examples:

  • What happens when you have to go down stairs?
  • Which is your favorite dog?
  • How do you eat ice cream?
  • How can you write books if you can’t see??
  • How do you plant?
  • How can you use the remote to watch TV if you can’t see?
  • But what if the ice cream is in a cone?
  • Can your dog have babies? Why not?
  • How do you know which dog is your favorite if you can’t see them?
  • How come you are so pretty?
  • How can you drive?
  • Dr. Who started in 1963 and you could still see, did you ever watch it?
  • How come you have to change dogs so much?
  • How do you know what your hair color is?
  • Is your dog with you all the time when you’re at home, too?
  • I liked the Fourth Dr. from the planet Gallifrey and he had a robot dog named K-9 and I liked it when Nyssa was on, too, so which one was your favorite Dr. Who?
  • Can a Seeing Eye dog work with more than one persons?
  • How do you feel if you’re blind?
  • How do you know where your dog is if you can’t see her?
  • What if you had a glass and you were walking to the couch and you went to sit down and your dog was there and you got to the couch and you dropped the glass and it broke and got all over the place?

Whew! Whitney and I spent three entire school days with students on Long Island, and trust me, we both slept well afterwards. No wonder teachers get the summer off. They need it!

After my presentation to one of the kindergarten classes at Harding Avenue School in Lindenhurst on Tuesday, a boy raised his hand to let me know his dog is blind, and that his family is teaching her to go up stairs without being able to see. I’ve had Kindergartners tell me before that they have blind dogs, blind friends, even blind parents. I assume they’re telling me a story, and I usually comment on how lucky they are. I responded to this boy by asking, “Are you a Seeing Eye kid, then?”

The kindergartner liked that idea, and his teacher asked if he might want to tell me why he has to teach his dog to go up stairs now. “We were living with our Grandma,” he said, explaining they just moved into their own house. “It has lots and lots of stairs, and it’s way, way, way up high.” That little boy wasn’t just telling me a story. Their family dog is old, and she really is blind. His family’s home was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, they’ve finally just moved into a new house, and it’s on stilts.

During breaks from my talks, the school principal and teachers explained that Harding Avenue has 400 or so students, and 163 families from the school were displaced by Superstorm Sandy. Outside of this little mention of the new house way, way up high, though, the resilient kids never mentioned that storm. The temperature was in the sixties the day I visited, the winter snow had melted, and after I answered all their questions and took Whitney’s harness off so they could rub her belly. Then they ran outside. Recess!


Mrs. Antonelli’s 2nd grade class at Harding School came up with a way to thank me that I can hear, and that you can see:

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.23.53 AM

Pulling together after the storm

The Lindenhurst first-graders loved Whitney .

After Whitney and I visited Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst, NY last may, first-grade teacher Erica Bohrer published a post about us on her blog. What fun it was to see (okay, hear about) one of our school visits from a teacher’s point of view.

That’s Erica with me and Whitney at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst last May.

Fast forward to October. Lindenhurst was one of the Long Island towns hardest hit by last month’s storm, and an email from Erica this month assured me that she and the sweet students we met there are okay. “I am so lucky that my family, my friends, and my students are safe,” she wrote. “Many lost their homes, but they still have their health. We are all pulling together.” Erica’s email also explained a fundraiser she is sponsoring: she offers lesson plans, teaching resources and other related materials for teachers on (an open marketplace where teachers buy and sell original teaching materials from each other) and she is donating proceeds from a Hurricane Unit she developed to help with Hurricane Sandy victims in Lindenhurst. Whether you’re a teacher or not, I encourage you to check out Erica’s unit on hurricanes — it’s interesting stuff!

And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Erica’s mother, Maria, is a reading teacher in the Lindenhurst school district as well. My Seeing Eye dogs and I have enjoyed visits to Maria’s special readers over the years, and we’ve been to her beautiful home a few times, too. Maria is collecting new children’s books to replenish school libraries devastated by flooding, and you may send new (or almost new) books to her at:

Maria Bohrer
Harding Ave. Elementary School
2 Harding Ave.
Lindenhurst, NY 11757

For more information, you may email Erica’s mom Maria at

How are Hanni’s dreams?

That's Hanni and me at Daniel
Street School in Lindenhurst, NY.

That's Hanni and me at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst, NY. I wonder how her dreams are?

How are Hanni’s dreams? That question was my favorite of all the ones asked during this week’s school visits to Long Island. And trust me, there was lots of competition. Runners up:
  • Do newspapers come out in Braille?
  • I know we can’t pet Hanni when her harness is on, but can you?
  • Are all Seeing Eye dogs spayed or neutered, and if so, why?
  • Why did you buy a Seeing Eye dog?

I explained to the boy who asked the last question that I didn’t really buy Hanni. He did have a point, though. From the FAQ section of the Seeing Eye web site:

How much does a Seeing Eye dog cost?

Student fees of $150 for a first dog and $50 for subsequent dogs cover only a fraction of the actual cost of each partnership. Only through generous gifts to our Annual Membership Campaign are we able to provide a dog; its training; the student’s room; board; and instruction for 20 to 27 days; plus round-trip
transportation from anywhere in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico; and follow-up services throughout the life of a partnership.

I did my best to explain all this to the boy who asked about buying Hanni. Then he raised his hand again. “So are you glad you bought Hanni?” My answer was a resounding yes.

I got another resounding “yes” after a question about how I know what people look like. A student asked about the people I saw before losing my sight. She wanted to know if I still remember what they look like. Answer:yes. Then came the follow-up question. “Do you use those memories to try and figure out what the new people you meet look like?”

Her last question gave me an opportunity to describe the way I think of people now — as huge swatches of color. (For more about all that, link to my A blind eye to race post).

I admitted that every once in a while I still do wonder what some people physically look like. Knowing my audience, I brought up Yankee shortstop Derek Jeeter. EVERYONE seems to love this Derek Jeeter guy. ESPECIALLY women. “Is he good looking or something?” I asked.

The students didn’t answer. The female teachers did, though. With a resounding “Yes!”

Martha Speaks, Hanni Listens

That's Hanni and me at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst, NY.

That's Hanni and me at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst, NY.

Is it March 31 already!? Seems like an April Fool’s joke! This sure has been a busy – and rewarding — month for Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound. In one month, Hanni and I visited five elementary schools, two libraries, one health education center, one teacher education center, and appeared at one author-illustrator night. We traveled by planes, trains and automobiles to New York, Michigan and various Illinois locations. Somehow, we always managed to make it home, you guessed it: safe & sound! While Hanni and I were traveling around talking to folks aboutSafe & Sound, experts behind the scenes were giving our book some attention, too. This month Hanni and Beth: Safe & sound was included on a new American Library Association list of about 25 or so “outstanding books that portray emotional, mental, or physical disability experiences.” It’s a thrill to have our book listed with all those other sensational titles. But the thrill doesn’t end there: in this same month of March, my publisher at Blue Marlin Publications got a message from the kids TV show Martha Speaks at WGBH in Boston. If you’ve never seen Martha Speaks on TV, you can link here to watch videos to see what Martha’s show is like. From the Martha Speaks web site:

Martha Speaks is an animated series on PBS KIDS. Aimed at viewers between the ages of four and seven, Martha’s educational goal is to teach kids new words. Based on the children’s book series by Susan Meddaugh and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the series stars Martha, a beloved family dog. She is accidentally fed alphabet soup — this gives her the power of speech and the chance to speak her mind to anyone that will listen.

The educational outreach program folks from Martha Speaks contacted my publisher to order copies of our book for a new program they’re testing out in Boston and New York City. Our book will be given to students in city schools, and if the pilot program works, a national rollout will feature Safe & Sound online activity guides and other online materials in conjunction with a Martha Speaks recommended book list. So if all goes well, more libraries and other organizations across the country will hear about Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound — as they say in TVland…stay tuned!

Blogging from Bohemia?

Greetings from da island, mon!We had to fight the crowds off with a stick!Everyone in the exotic land of Bohemia was great!

Hanni and I are off to Long Island tomorrow – we’re visiting schools and doing book events in towns with exotic names like Patchogue, Wantagh and…Bohemia!

More details on our Long Island stops are available at the “upcoming events” link on my website. I’ll be bringing my talking laptop on the trip. In order to blog, though, I’ll have to figure out how to hook up to the wireless connection in our room at the Holiday Inn.
Confession: I’ve never used a wireless connection on my own before, someone else has always helped me connect that way.

In other words, if I were you I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a blog from Bohemia.

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