Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller


Helen Keller lost her ability to see and hear before she turned two years old.

But in her lifetime, she learned to ride horseback and dance the foxtrot. She graduated from Radcliffe. She became a world famous speaker and author. She befriended Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, and Alexander Graham Bell. And above all, she revolutionized public perception and treatment of the ...

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Helen Keller lost her ability to see and hear before she turned two years old.

But in her lifetime, she learned to ride horseback and dance the foxtrot. She graduated from Radcliffe. She became a world famous speaker and author. She befriended Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, and Alexander Graham Bell. And above all, she revolutionized public perception and treatment of the blind and the deaf.

The catalyst for this remarkable life's journey was Annie Sullivan, a young woman who was herself visually impaired. Hired on as a tutor when Helen was six years old, Annie broke down the barriers between Helen and the wider world, becoming a fiercely devoted friend and lifelong companion in the process.

In Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, author and illustrator Joseph Lambert examines the powerful bond between teacher and pupil, forged through the intense frustrations and revelations of Helen's early education. The result is an inspiring, emotional, and wholly original take on the story of these two great Americans.

Co-winner of the 2013 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Maria Lamattina
For decades, two examples of strong women that children learn about have been Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Sullivan, an orphan who overcame a tragic childhood and the loss of most of her sight, was hired to be a teacher to Helen, a blind and deaf child. Despite early difficulties and challenges to her approach by Helen's parents, Annie, helped Keller become a renowned speaker and author. Although the subject matter has been treated by many authors in varying ways—even as a drama for adults—this book reflects an original approach. The reader is first introduced to the main characters through over forty wordless frames, and determining what exactly the reader is witnessing is no easy task. This is followed by a typical graphic approach, using speech bubbles, with one addition—edited excerpts from Annie Sullivan's journals appear in cursive writing, providing the reader with her actual reactions to the events being related. Later in the text, actual writings of Helen Keller are introduced in a different cursive font.Lambert makes use of a variety of captivating visual features to tell his story. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller can be used as a mentor text for both reading and writing lessons. The original format of the book, with its wordless sections and flashbacks, presents comprehension challenges, especially for readers lacking background knowledge about the two women, though a "Panel Discussions" section at the end of the book is helpful in this respect. Annie Sullivan serves as the focus of this text, which clearly demonstrates her determination in the face of hardship and denigration by others, a story to which young people today can certainly relate. Reviewer: Maria Lamattina
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—The story of Sullivan, who was visually impaired herself, starts off with her in the Keller home wrestling with the difficult task of teaching the young blind and deaf child. As the story progresses, readers see the difficult times that Sullivan had as a child, losing family and becoming an orphan, and then being hired by the Kellers. None of these things is easy, but she finally breaks through to Helen and, as her understanding reaches new levels, she still has to deal with perceptions and expectations that others hold over both of them. Told from Sullivan's viewpoint, this color-filled graphic novel has many of the simple drawings blacked out with shapes or colored blobs to represent how she sees people and items. Much of the narration also comes from letters written to her old schoolmaster and is done in script. A wonderful resource for reports or interesting nonfiction reading, this graphic novel does a great job of describing how things were for the teacher and her pupil and the challenges they both faced. The book concludes with a four-page section that explains aspects of the various panels.—Mariela Siegert, Westfield Middle School, Bloomingdale, IL
Kirkus Reviews
The story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan is given new life in an imaginative graphic novel. This volume from The Center for Cartoon Studies focuses on the trials both Annie and Helen struggle with in their lives. If Helen was a trial for her family and Annie over the years, she is literally put on trial at the Perkins Institution. The final third of the book is devoted to this "trial," not nearly as well known as the famous scene at the well, where Helen finally makes the mental connection that water is always water, whether in a cup, in a pitcher or running from a pump. Having gone on to learn to write, she is accused of plagiarizing her story "The Frost King," which was published in the Perkins Institution's alumni magazine. Interrogated for two hours, Helen was so devastated that she never wrote fiction again. The incident allows Lambert to go beyond the famous well scene to further explore the nature of words, language and ideas. "If your ideas don't come from teacher, where do they come from?" Helen's interrogators ask. It's a sophisticated, sometimes overly abstract, presentation, but the volume, like its predecessors, is visually appealing and daring. Helen's perspective is powerfully communicated in dialogue-free black panels in which she is represented as only a gray silhouette. A visual stunner that covers new ground. (panel discussions, bibliography, suggested reading) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423113362
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 430,373
  • Lexile: GN630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Lambert ( is the creator of various self-published comics, and also a co-editor of the Sundays anthology series and I Will Bite You!, a collection of short comic stories published by Secret Acres. A graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies, his comics and illustrations have appeared in The Best American Comics, Komiksfest! Review, and DarkHorse Presents, as well as in Business Week and Popular Mechanics. Joseph lives in White River Junction, Vermont.

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