Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller
I could not put this book down. It is the story of one month in the lives of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Annie was only 20 years old when she took the train to Alabama to become Helen's teacher. Six-year-old Helen's family loved her but had almost given up on her—she was blind and deaf and had no way to communicate, and so she behaved like a wild animal. Annie Sullivan knew what it was like to be blind and lonely and desperate for human connection, and she was also a tenacious and gifted teacher. When she arrived she realized what Helen needed—discipline, love, and words, which are the key to human thoughts and emotions. Annie tried to discipline Helen, but she fought fiercely, physically, and with great intelligence. Helen knew that her parents would give in to her slightest tantrum and she pulled all the right strings to get her own way. Annie had to take her away for a week in order to begin to civilize Helen's behavior. But even when Helen's behavior improved, she didn't immediately understand the concept of language that Annie was trying to teach her. I was amazed at the courage and talent of this young woman. It is a fiction story, but it's closely based on the letters of Annie Sullivan, and I imagine that the emotions and events are very true to life. Sarah Miller did a fantastic job of writing this historical fiction novel.