Helen Keller, Rebellious Spirit: The Life and Times of Helen Keller

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
My daughter and I recently attended an excellent local high school production of "The Miracle Worker," so this book has been a special pleasure to read and review. The story of Helen Keller and her devoted teacher Annie Sullivan is a testament to the human spirit. Here is virtue at its best, and this book underscores that fact with a handsome cover, an in-depth account, and numerous fascinating photographs. It will make a superb gift for children, but adults may be caught reading it too. 2001, Holiday House, Inc., $22.95. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: A. Braga SOURCE: Parent Council, September 2001 (Vol. 9, No. 1)
Children's Literature
This well-written, compelling biography covers the complete life of Helen Keller, the beautiful deaf and blind girl who would eventually become the embodiment of the new American ideal of striving to succeed. Lawlor uses contemporaneous photographs to good advantage and includes many anecdotes and quotes from the prodigious writings that Annie Sullivan helped Helen Keller create. Readers are steered through Helen's tumultuous early childhood to her saving, but often complicated, relationship with Teacher, the half-blind, orphaned Annie Sullivan. Sullivan, who gradually succumbed to blindness, spent much of Helen's money in medical treatments and travel, but provided drive and discipline to an already determined Helen. Lawlor covers the Radcliffe years in which Annie spelled into Helen's hand every speech, lecture or assigned reading; Helen's later, painful speaking career; and her quiet engagement and its dissipation. Helen and Annie's struggle to live independently required them to keep making money, and sent Helen briefly to vaudeville and to Hollywood to make an overly-dramatic bio-pic. Helen's controversial Socialism and social activism was accepted by the American public, perhaps because of her reputation, but World War II forced her to choose a milder lecture style to raise money for the blind and support herself. Lawlor provides enough political, economic and social background to make this a fine addition to middle school or high school studies of the period from the 1890s to the mid-1900s; for discussions of women's rights, treatment of the handicapped, and the plight of the poor. (and with special references to poor blacks and immigrants). When Helen died in 1968, she had mademany contributions, especially to the education of people with disabilities. She served as an example of what women could become in spite of family, disabilities and the times. A thoroughly stirring and excellent biography. 2001, Holiday House, $22.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Susan Hepler
VOYA
A quick survey of this reviewer's public library shelves revealed more than two dozen volumes that relate to the fascinating life and words of Helen Keller. Readers might recall reading about this young woman, then closing their eyes and attempting to feel their way around home surroundings. Helen Keller's story might be the first American biography that most girls read. Patty Duke's portrayal of Helen in The Miracle Worker is a true classic for many viewers. Joan Dash has just published The World at Her Fingertips (Scholastic, 2000/VOYA June 2001), a critically acclaimed, readable volume about Helen Keller. In light of all this coverage, one might ask, is another such volume needed? This reviewer's vote is yes—this text is needed for the middle school and public library. Packaged similarly to Russell Freedman's books in a larger size that makes the photographs, primary sources, and historical data more accessible, Lawlor's book details Helen's life, examining the difficulties facing the young woman. The author includes some new material and evidence about Helen's adult life that students might not have been exposed to before. Personal statements abound so readers feel that they are listening to Helen herself. Information about the Swedenborgian church, Helen's socialist views, and her lifelong abilities to raise funds for the causes she championed are examples of Helen's rebellious spirit and privileged place. Supporting documents are extensive. Use this volume as a reference tool as well as a chosen biography. Boys and girls alike will find new and important social significance here. Index. Photos. Further Reading. Chronology. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marredonly by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Holiday House, 161p, $22.95. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Nancy Zachary SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Lawlor's finely crafted and lively biography makes fine use of primary-source material that brings Keller's interior thoughts to life and hints at her highly developed sense of humor. The author does not shy away from pointing out her subject's faults while lauding her many accomplishments. This well-researched account contains a fair amount of social history, placing Keller's life in the context of her time and providing readers with a greater basis to understand the development of her "radical" political beliefs and her "rebellious spirit." The excellent book design and attention to detail give children a visually aesthetic reading experience. Interesting, captioned, black-and-white photographs, many full page, are judiciously placed to break up the text throughout. The complete manual alphabet is reproduced inside the book and on the endpapers-a great touch since children will be interested in seeing one method in which Keller communicated. Each chapter begins with a full-page photograph and a quote from one of Keller's many books. Should libraries purchase this biography if they already own Joan Dash's The World at Her Fingertips (Scholastic, 2001)? The answer is a resounding "yes!"-Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Helen Keller was a hero and an icon in her own age as well as in ours: she lost her sight and hearing at 19 months; she was brought into the world of language by a young and fiercely determined teacher; she went to college, supported herself, and published voluminously at a time when women could scarcely do those things at all, let alone as disabled women. The author uncovers much of the complexities of Keller's life: the prickly personality of teacher Anne Sullivan; the relationship of Helen and Anne with Helen's family and the culture of the deep South; how both her fame and her family conspired to keep Helen more as a symbol than as a person rich in personality and contradiction. But Keller was deeply involved in the suffragist movement, the philosophy of Swedenborg, and socialism. She raised money through work on the vaudeville stage as well as in the movies and through support from benefactors. Moreover, she once had a fiance who seems to have really loved her, although her family broke them apart. Rich in contemporary photographs, this treatment makes a fascinating, living being out of the plaster saint, and though it is not quite so engaging as Joan Dash's "The World at Her Fingertips "(2000), it will be welcomed by those ardent fans of its subject. (chronology, notes, bibliography) "(Biography. 10+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823415885
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 9 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 1040L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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