Last year a little Deaf girl named Shaylee stole our hearts with her adorable and linguistically sophisticated sign language performance of The Night Before Christmas. This year the ASL learning site ASLnook (run by her parents Sheena McFeely and Manny Johnson) features a new performance by Shaylee in which she tells the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You can see her above, with her hair done up like Cindy Lou, bringing the story to life.
Once again she expresses the full range of her linguistic and storytelling skills, deftly shifting among the perspectives of many characters. To take just one example, in the section that starts at 1:00, she shows the Grinch’s perspective with a downward eye gaze. The Grinch is at the top of a mountain looking down on the festivities.
Then she switches to the perspective of the people he’s watching by shifting her gaze up.
Then she starts the next clause with a quick downward shift of the eyes. This tiny, subtle movement establishes that she is once again in the Grinch’s perspective.
And boy does he hate Christmas.
Eye gaze is just one of the many devices used in ASL storytelling to keep a story running smoothly and coherently. Shaylee, who is only 5 years old, shows impressive control over all of them. It’s enough to make your heart grow 3 sizes.