Genre: biography, children’s literature
Length: 155 pages
Setting: various points in the U.S., 1880s-1950s
Interest: I remembered reading the story as a child and being fascinated by what Helen Keller was able to do, even though she could neither hear nor see. I decided to read it to Miss Adventure as her bedtime story.
Summary: When Helen Keller was a small child, an illness left her blind and deaf. After that point, her parents couldn’t communicate with her, which lead to increasing disturbances as Helen grew and became frustrated with her lack of communication and understanding. The Kellers sought out help in the form of Anne Sullivan. Anne began teaching Helen the manual alphabet by signing into Helen’s hand. It took a while, but Helen eventually realized the motions were words, which opened up the world to her. Helen mastered sign language, moving on to Braille and printing block letters, and even talking. She insisted on learning more, eventually going to Radcliffe College. Once she graduated, Helen became a spokesperson for the blind, telling her stories to large audiences in the hopes of raising money to help others in her situation. Anne Sullivan stayed with her throughout her life, reading books into her hands until her eyes gave out. They were helped by several other individuals, including Polly Thomson who traveled with them when Anne’s eyes became unreliable.
Final thoughts: Miss Adventure loved this book, asking for multiple chapters a day if I would give them. As a read aloud it worked quite well, since the chapters were short enough to read one a night. There’s not a lot of action in the book, but it just amazes me what Helen was able to accomplish starting from nothing. Can you imagine getting all your information about the outside world through your skin only? And then be able to talk, even though you can’t hear? The fact that Helen Keller lived in this day and age (she died in 1968) is also fascinating, since there are actual photographs of her and stories about her from contemporaries like Mark Twain.
Helen’s story is so remarkable, I think it is worth it for everyone to read about her. I hope Miss Adventure takes to heart the fact that you can do anything you set your mind to, regardless of your limitations.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 25/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge – one-quarter of the way there one-quarter of the way through the year. I’m looking pretty good to finish those 100 books.