Who wouldn’t want to go to a 300-year-old school of magic, learn to fly and cast spells?

But in the novel, “A Handful of Spells,” by Kimberly A. Shaw, hard-of-hearing student Caitlin Leo falls off her broom, gets the spells wrong, and isn’t sure her cat is really a familiar. When she discovered the other deaf magic-workers and their uses of signed languages, her life takes a turn for the better.

This novel is based on the author’s experiences as a mainstreamed hard-of-hearing school child in Maine. It is meant to appeal to middle school students and adults alike, while immersing the reader in the realities of a person who is neither fully hearing nor fully deaf, but a frustrating mixture of both.

It reveals how much strength, power and self-confidence can come from simple community support.

Shaw grew up admiring schooners and reading her way through a town library in Camden. She knows firsthand the struggles of being mainstreamed, from being born hard of hearing. However, she did not receive her first hearing aid until her junior year of high school.

Her poetry was first published in Camden’s “Windsong” magazine, and more recently in Mark Drolsbaugh’s “On the Fence” anthology of 2007.

It was only as an adult in Boston that she was convinced to try a class in American Sign Language, and there, in her 30s, she discovered the beauty and power of signed languages. After studying at Brighton’s “Deaf Inc.” center and two summer ASL-immersions at Gallaudet University, she now “sign-sings” for Boston’s Yiddish chorus, A Besere Velt.

As a lifelong musician, Shaw is glad that most melody instruments fall within her “good” hearing range. She plays trumpet in community bands, and sounds taps as an active member of Bugles Across America, where band members and honor-guard teams alike have learned it’s better to use visual, rather than acoustic cues with her.

She is a 1988 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, holds a librarian’s degree from Simmons College and has recently celebrated her 25th anniversary of working for Wellesley College Library.

She lives in a 100-year-old house in Boston with a fellow-bookworm spouse and several chowder-eating cats. Their combined library contains books in many of the languages that show up in “Witches’ Academy,” and then some.

“A Handful of Spells” is her first novel. She is working on a second novel set in Salem, Mass.

The book was published by Savvy Publishing and is available on Amazon.com.


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