Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster: NY, 2007.

I have anticipated reading this book since I learned of it. Maybe overly anticipated. One of the very first books I read as a child was a serial biography of Helen Keller. I loved the story and read it several times. I also have seen 2 versions of The Miracle Worker. The 1962 movie with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke and the 1979 TV movie with Patty Duke and Melissa Gilbert. I think, because the story itself was what so enthralled me, this book could replace the old serial book in the hearts of children. The old one has nice pictures and was meant for very young readers. This one has more depth and much better language and writing. The events are much the same, but Sarah Miller has made an effort to convey the thoughts of Anne Sullivan-including what she believed Helen was going through before understanding the concept of words and as her world opened up. The perspective is the main difference. The old book is from Helen's. This one is from Anne Sullivan's, and because Anne was nearly blind and trained at the Perkins Institution for the Blind where she knew someone like Helen, this book to a certain extent incorporates both perspectives.

One of the things that amazes me about the lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan is the realization of how important words are. Their lives made me think at a very young age about this concept. Words-we take them for granted, but the normal way of thinking (not just communicating) is with words. Some people have more visual thinking than I do. Sometimes we think in sound or pure emotion, but all of us think with words. Can you imagine what it would be like to try to communicate without having learned words? Or to communicate with someone else who hasn't? That is what this whole story hinges on. Helen was just starting to learn a few words at six months when she became so ill that she lost her sight and hearing. By age 6 she so desperately wanted to communicate that she had created her own gestures for many things. She needed a teacher who could understand her struggles and help her to communicate or be trapped inside herself with only her family to understand her at all. Only one other person had learned what Helen needed to learn, fifty years earlier.

related-Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, blind, deaf, people with disabilities, teachers, Alabama history, self discipline, orphans, American sign language, literacy, understanding words, communication, fictionalized biography
RL=5th & up

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