ASL Tales: The Princess and the Pea

Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
November 01, 2008
PreSchool-Grade 5—Fairy tales retold in sign language are nothing new, but what sets this fine program apart is that the story has been retold by native users of English and American Sign Language (ASL) working together to create a version that highlights the strong points of both languages. Designed to inspire a basic appreciation of ASL rather than to teach it per se, the DVD allows viewers to watch the story straight through, with pages from the accompanying book by Alicita Rodriguez and Joseph Starr alternating with the ASL telling, accompanied by English, Spanish, or French voiceover. Once they have picked up some of the signs, youngsters can watch the story in ASL only. The "ASL Clues" section invites viewers to develop their understanding of ASL, and a glossary highlights specific signs from the story. The tale can also be accessed in audio format only to support beginning readers as they enjoy the accompanying book. Numerous humorous modern touches are added to the story. The illustrations by Judy Hood are colorful, if workmanlike. The real star here is renowned ASL storyteller Pinky Aiello, who brings whimsy to each character through her excellent telling.—Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. ASL Tales are told in an artistic version of American Sign Language (ASL) that includes ASL, mime, and gesture.

Editor review

1 review
An Enchanting (ASL-friendly) Retelling
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
A delightful and adaptive take on a classic children’s tale. This picture book offers bright, stylized illustration and emphasized word choices to complement its purpose as an American Sign Language translation.

The book itself contains no signing or instructive images and could, in fact, be read as a standard children’s book. It takes a somewhat updated approach to an old story about a potential mother-in-law’s unrealistic expectations, highlighting the more pertinent attributes of a “true princess.” At the back of the book is a DVD meant to be played in tandem with the reading. The audio is a separate narration, allowing the female translator full focus in her lively presentation. (Alternate audio languages include Spanish, French, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Thai.) On the downside, the ASL teaching value is greatly reduced if the DVD were to be lost or damaged.

This particular version comes in at 26 pages, some of which are fairly dense with narrative—particularly in the middle--while a few hold only a single sentence. The resulting variability in pacing works well for the story. (The DVD playtime clocks in right at 10 minutes for the English version.) Given the length and word choices, I would generally recommend this book for children ages 4 to 8.
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