Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller
Doreen Rappaport, author
Matt Tavares, illustrator
Disney Hyperion Books, Biography, Oct. 16, 2012
Suitable for: Ages 6 and up
Themes: Deafblind people, Sign language, Braille, Courage, Wisdom
Opening/Synopsis: “Helen gurgled and giggled in her crib. At six months, she crawled and said, ‘How-d’ye,’ and ‘wah-wah’ for water. When she was one, she ran after a ray of sunshine. She loved the mockingbird’s song and the sweet smell of climbing roses. But best of all was being on her father’s lap and in her mother’s arms.” When Helen was 19 months old, an illness took away her sight and speech. She was surrounded by silence and darkness. Helen tried to make up signs to communicate with her parents. But her failure to make them understand turned into outbursts. Annie Sullivan came to work with Helen when she was seven years old. Helen learned sign language quickly and was considered a genius. Annie taught her Braille so she could read books. She learned to write with a pencil, read lips, speak, and to experience the world with enthusiasm. Helen graduated from college with honors. Helen’s journey out of darkness led to freedom and she taught people how very large her world was.
Why I like this book: The title says it all “Helen’s Big World,”which is rich, full of life and not limited in any way. This is an excellent introduction for young readers to learn about this most remarkable woman. Doreen Rappaport beautifully captures the essence of this very inspirational child and woman, Helen Keller. It is written in prose with quotes from Helen woven into the story on every page. The book not only chronicles the story of Helen’s challenging and courageous life, but shows children how one can move beyond physical limitations, find their own gifts and change the world for the better. The book is large and Matt Tavares’ illustrations are bold, colorful, emotional and lively. The illustrator emphasizes what Helen can do. This book is a feast for the soul. Adults will also enjoy reading this treasure. I love that the book title is also printed in braille on the front cover.
Favorite Quotes: “We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses.”
“The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them.”
“I have the advantage of a mind trained to think, and that is the difference between myself and most people, not my blindness and their sight.”
Resources: The book alone is a great resource. There are back pages of resources and materials, as well as a page of the manual alphabet chart Annie Sullivan used with Helen. The American Foundation for the Blind has great resources or kids and teachers, especially if you scroll down and click on the Braille Bug link. Check out author Doreen Rappaport’s website. This is an excellent book for the classroom.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.