Prather’s Pick: Learning from role models
December 8, 2015
This week's book for kids is one of several little "Ordinary People Change the World" books, a biography series "that inspires kids to dream big, one great role model at a time."
The books are published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of the Penguin Group.
"I am Helen Keller," this week's featured book from the series, was written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos.
The character of Helen Keller is depicted as a young girl all the way through the book, possibly so that young readers can identify with her. As the book begins, Helen remembers back to the time she was young. At six months she could say a number of words. She could walk when she was one, developing just like any other child. But then when she was 19 months old she became ill. The doctors didn't think she would survive. She did, of course, but Helen was deaf and blind.
Two pages in the book are black, except for white lettering. These pages are particularly powerful because that's how it was for Helen to be blind. She invites the readers to close their eyes and cover their ears. See couldn't see or hear anything — nothing.
Helen remembers how scared and frustrated she was so it isn't surprising that she wasn't well-behaved. At the dinner table, she threw food and put her hands in other people's plates. She screamed. Sadly, people called her a monster. Helen couldn't play with other children or even her dog Belle.
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Finally, her parents decided that she needed a teacher. That's when Anne Sullivan came into the picture. It wasn't easy going. The book repeats a well-known incident from Helen's education. Sullivan was trying to get Helen to learn words by marking the letters on her hand. When Helen couldn't seem to get it, Sullivan took her out to the water faucet where she ran water on Helen's hands and then spelled "water" on her hand. It took time, but what a wonderful moment when Helen understood.
It was a turning point for Helen. Then she was introduced to Braille. The reader gets to give Braille a try, too, as the Braille alphabet is featured on one of the book's pages.
Then another teacher, Sarah Fuller, helped Helen learn sounds by feeling her lips and tongue as she said words.
Eventually, Helen went to college and became the first deaf and blind person to earn a college degree. And that was only the beginning for Helen. There are lots of messages in this book, one of which is to "keep climbing."
Included in the book are photos of Helen and Anne Sullivan, a quote by Helen, and a timeline. This is an inspirational book, indeed.
According to his brief biography, Christopher Eliopoulos began his illustrating career for "Marvel," and he has worked on thousands of comics. He uses that style in his illustrations for this book.
Among other books in this series are "I am Lucille Ball," "I am Abraham Lincoln," and "I am Rosa Parks." What a great series!
This week's book, in hardcover, costs $12.99, or you can find it (and others) in the children's room at the Craig Moffat County Library.