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Deaf child wins story competition and dream of book deal

Published Date: 30 Jul 2019

A budding young deaf author from Chiswick has been given a book deal by an Oscar winner actress and a former Children’s Laureate after taking first prize in a national story-writing competition.

Maya Wasserman, nine, was announced as the winner of the National Deaf Children’s Society’s book competition at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford last week, beating entries from more than 150 hopefuls.

The competition was judged by a panel that included actress Rachel Shenton, Oscar-winning creator of The Silent Child, and former Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo.

Maya’s winning story was an under-the-sea odyssey of mermaids, monsters and a missing ‘cockle’ implant, and she was praised by the judges for “a poignant, touching story that gets to the heart of growing up deaf.”

Maya will now work closely with Sarah Driver, author of The Huntress Trilogy, to develop her story, which will be published by the National Deaf Children’s Society in Summer 2020.

The charity organised the book competition to empower deaf children to share their stories and experiences, and to increase the representation of deaf characters in children’s literature.

Oscar-winning judge Rachel Shenton said:

“Making The Silent Child, and from my work in the deaf community, I’ve met lots of amazing deaf children up and down the country. I’ve learnt just how important it is for these children to see themselves in the programmes and movies they watch and in the books they read. Never seeing themselves can be so demoralising, and make their experiences seem invisible.

“I absolutely loved reading Maya’s brilliant story. She’s so perceptive, so warm, and I know many children will love reading this at bedtime and saying ‘hey mum – there’s someone just like me!’.”

Fellow judge Julia Donaldson CBE has long been an advocate of disability inclusion in children’s literature. She is hard-of-hearing herself, and has written several books with deaf characters including Freddie and the Fairy and What the Jackdaw Saw. Julia said:

“I enjoyed reading all the deaf children's stories, and what was particularly impressive was the positive light cast on deafness: in all cases the deaf central character was a hero.

“The winning entry, Coral and Angel, was a compelling story with enjoyable language and touches of humour.”

Maya said of her winning entry:

“It feels amazing that I’m going to have my story published. Working with Sarah at the winner’s day was really fun and I enjoyed it a lot.”

Kerrina Gray, at the National Deaf Children’s Society, added:

“A key part of growing up is getting lost in imaginary worlds that incredible authors have conjured up. For so many deaf children, they never get the chance to see a character like them in the books they read.

“Maya’s magical story is one step towards changing this, and I’m so thrilled to be working with her over the coming months to turn her story into a published, illustrated book families across the country can immerse themselves in.”