If you missed it, head over to my first post on Helen Keller picture books. Then take a look at four more you might want to beg, borrow, or buy.
Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares (Disney-Hyperion, 2012)
This oversize picture book tells the story of Helen Keller in detail with descriptions that bring the scenes to life. (“With her fingers, Helen felt the vibrations of a person laughing, a chick bursting out of an egg, a horse neighing, and a baby pig squealing. And Annie spelled each new word or idea.”) Each two-page spread includes a quotation from Helen Keller’s writings in large font to complement the text. The illustrations are soft and realistic. The book ends with an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, a timeline of Helen Keller’s life, a page of sources and recommended reading, and a manual language chart. Recommended for ages 6 to 8. (Side note: Doreen Rappaport has written many other picture book biographies that I am now keen to check out.)
Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Raul Colon (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012)
Out of all the picture books about Helen Keller that I read this one explained in the most detail how Annie Sullivan taught Helen language. The story, which ends when Helen writes her first letter home, is a pleasure to read (“Helen was like a small, wild bird, throwing herself against the bars of a dark and silent cage”). Interspersed are excerpts from Annie Sullivan’s letters to her friend Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins. The illustrations are a little subdued for my liking, but photographs on the end papers are a nice addition. A few books and websites are listed at the end, while an author’s note at the beginning provides brief bios of both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Recommended for ages 5 to 8.
Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle by Holly M. Barry, illustrated by Jennifer Thermes (Albert Whitman, 2013)
This picture book uses Helen’s relationship with her dog as a unique angle to tell the story of the years from her birth until she learns to speak (“Now Belle could understand her too!”). The text is not very long and the illustrations should appeal to young children. For kids who want to know more, after the story is a one-page bio of Helen Keller and a one-page description of the dogs she owned during her life. Recommended for ages 4 to 7.
I Am Helen Keller by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Penguin, 2015)
As you might guess from the title, this picture book is narrated in the first person. It spans all of Helen Keller’s life, explaining how Annie Sullivan taught her to communicate and how she grew up, attended college, and worked for social change. The last several pages encourage readers to overcome obstacles to achieve their potential. A timeline, photographs, and lists of sources and further reading are included. For me the main downsides are the comic book style illustrations (complete with speech bubbles) and the moral that is anything but subtle. If you have a kid who likes comic books, you might want to give this book a try. Recommended for ages 5 to 8.
(Featured image: “Anne Sullivan – Helen Keller Memorial”—a bronze sculpture in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.)