Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller
Reviewed by Miss Dewey at Orenda
Five paw prints. By now you have probably heard of Helen Keller. She was born a healthy child in Alabama, but when she was two years old she became very sick and lost her ability to see and hear. It was only with the help of Annie Sullivan that Helen was able to escape from her shell and learn about the world around her. This book is NOT Helen Keller's story. It is the story of how Annie Sullivan came to be Helen's teacher. Annie Sullivan was an orphan who had a very sad early life. Her mother died when she was young leaving her with two younger siblings, and her father was a drunk who wasn't interested in raising children. A relative adopted the youngest sibling while an aunt and uncle agreed to take care of Annie and her younger brother. Unfortunately, this arrangement didn't last long because the aunt and uncle didn't want to take care of a blind niece or the little brother who refused to do anything without his older sister. The uncle then sent the children to a poor house to live with other people without family or money. No one at the poor house wanted to take care of two orphan children under the age of 10 and they were left to take care of themselves. And since no one wanted them around they were forced to live in the morgue. While this was not ideal it allowed the children to live together until Annie's younger brother became sick. A few months after their arrival at the poor house Annie's younger brother died and Annie was now alone. As luck would have it, a famous doctor happened to visit this poor house and "bump" into Annie--actually Annie intentionally bumped into the doctor because Annie had heard the doctor had connections with a school for blind children and Annie wanted to attend school. Though Annie never met the doctor again she was sent to the school where she not only learned braille, but she also learned sign language, and she learned that there was an operation to restore her eyesight. After many years at the school she became a teacher, was sent to Alabama, and the rest is history. I loved this book. I grew up knowing about Helen Keller (just like many school children) but I never knew much about her teacher. Annie Sullivan had such a hard life and in a way it was probably harder that Helen's life. Even when Helen was young and no one understood what she was trying to communicate, she at least had family who loved her. Annie had no one and she had to take care of herself, and even after all she did with Helen, people still know very little about her. I know I will do my best to learn more about Annie Sullivan. If you want to learn more about Annie Sullivan visit http://www.perkins.org/vision-loss/helen-keller/sullivan.html.
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