Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Helen Keller (1880-1968)? She is such an inspirational figure that I knew there had to be children’s books written about her. I ended up ordering seven picture books from the Calgary Public Library, which I’ll review in two separate posts. Part one covers three illustrated easy readers. (You’ll find part two here.) Let’s begin!
Helen Keller by Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by Elaine Verstraete (Lerner, 2002)
This easy reader is the most detailed of the three, telling the story of Helen Keller’s life from her birth until she published her autobiography The Story of My Life at age 23. In four chapters it explains her childhood struggles, how Annie taught her to communicate, and her experiences at school and college. A one-page afterword and timeline are included. The illustrations are lovely paintings. This would be a good book for a child who wants to learn details about Helen Keller’s childhood. The only downside is that — as expected in an easy reader — most of the sentences are short, so it is not the most beautiful for reading out loud. (Check back next week for my favourite picks.) Recommended for ages 7 to 9.
Helen Keller and the Big Storm by Patricia Lakin, illustrated by Diana Magnuson (Simon Spotlight, 2002)
This short easy reader focuses on one experience of Helen Keller’s childhood: being caught in a sudden storm. Since it doesn’t provide details about Helen Keller’s life, you should choose it if you are looking for a story that brings to life Helen’s experience of the world rather than providing information. You might like to use it with a young independent reader in conjunction with a more detailed read-aloud. The illustrations are vivid and the text is quite short. It ends with a timeline of Helen’s life. Recommended for ages 6 to 7.
Helen Keller by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Andrej Krystoforski (Kids Can Press, 2007)
In length and level of detail, this book falls between the other two. The writing is straightforward and covers Helen Keller’s whole life, including her meeting with Alexander Graham Bell, relationship with Annie Sullivan, college experience, and speaking career. I found both the writing and illustrations adequate, but not exciting. The book ends with “More facts about Helen,” including the dates of her birth and death, Helen Keller Day, and her favourite animal. Recommended for ages 6 to 8.