Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Doreen Rappaport, author

Matt Tavares, illustrator

Disney Hyperion Books, Biography, Oct. 16, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 6 and up

Themes: Deafblind people, Sign language, Braille, Courage, Wisdom

Opening/Synopsis:  “Helen gurgled and giggled in her crib.  At six months, she crawled and  said, ‘How-d’ye,’ and ‘wah-wah’ for water.  When she was one, she ran after a ray of sunshine.  She loved the mockingbird’s song and the sweet smell of climbing roses.  But best of all was being on her father’s lap and in her mother’s arms.”   When Helen was 19 months old, an illness took away her sight and speech.  She was surrounded by silence and darkness.  Helen tried to make up signs to communicate with her parents.  But her failure to make them understand turned into outbursts.  Annie Sullivan came to work with Helen when she was seven years old.  Helen learned sign language quickly and was considered a genius.  Annie taught her Braille so she could read books.  She learned to write with a pencil, read lips, speak, and to experience the world with enthusiasm.  Helen graduated from college with honors.  Helen’s journey out of darkness led to freedom and she taught people how very large her world was.

Why I like this book:  The title says it all “Helen’s Big World,”which is rich, full of life and not limited in any way.  This is an excellent introduction for young readers to learn about this most remarkable woman.  Doreen Rappaport beautifully captures the essence of this very inspirational child and woman, Helen Keller.  It is written in prose with quotes from Helen woven into the story on every page.  The book not only chronicles the story of Helen’s challenging and courageous life, but shows children how one can move beyond physical limitations, find their own gifts and change the world for the better.  The book is large and Matt Tavares’ illustrations are bold, colorful, emotional and lively.  The illustrator emphasizes what Helen can do.  This book is a feast for the soul.  Adults will also enjoy reading this treasure.  I love that the book title is also printed in braille on the front cover.

Favorite Quotes:  “We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses.”

“The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them.”

“I have the advantage of a mind trained to think, and that is the difference between myself and most people, not my blindness and their sight.”

Resources:  The book alone is a great resource.  There are back pages of resources and materials, as well as a page of the manual alphabet chart Annie Sullivan used with Helen.   The American Foundation for the Blind has great resources or kids and teachers, especially if you scroll down and click on the Braille Bug link.  Check out author Doreen Rappaport’s website.  This is an excellent book for the classroom.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

54 thoughts on “Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

  1. Oh I so love this amazing woman, Helen Keller. I read about her in school and from my first days of school I mixed with deaf kids as their school was next to ours and I learnt sign language. (not so good now) I have the movie DVD with Patty Duke portraying Helen, but I would so love this book. Love that it focuses on what she CAN do. The artwork looks gorgeous to. Thanks for this Pat, will check out my library and bookstores.


    • Diane, I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it. Much of the story we already know, but it is interlaced quotes of Helen’s on recolections of the time and her wisdom. The artists did an amazing job illustrating the book. Helen Keller has always been a fvorite of mine.


  2. I find Hellen’s story so inspiring! I’m glad to see this book added to our list. Doreen Rappaport is great writer. Whenever I think of Helen’s story I think how lucky it was that she and Annie Sullivan found each other – I don’t think just anyone could have helped Helen out of the darkness. Thanks for sharing this one, Pat!


  3. Helen was an amazing, inspiring woman. I’ve told my kids about her, but they need to see this for themselves. Thanks for this recommendation. I’m looking it up!

    Btw – I finished “Son.” Loved it! Great wrap up for The Giver series. I’m glad you discovered it!


    • Michelle, this is the perfect book for older kids. It tells the story, but also incorporates Helen’s wisdom.

      Glad you loved “Son.” Also really enjoyed the 2nd and third books –characters carried over into “Son.”


  4. I saw Matt, the illustrator posting this on his FB page just recently, which prompted me to ask him for an interview. I hope he speaks of this book in his interview as I love some of the illustrations I have seen. Kids are always i inspired by reading about Helen Keller, and this sounds like a fabulous addition to these biographies! I love the braille on the cover, too.


    • Joanna,
      That’s great you have an interview with Matt. His illustrations really capture Helen’s bigger than life personality. Ask his about the book — it’s just out. He did a beautiful job illustrating this on.


  5. I was quite excited to see this book title! I have an affinity for the visually impaired (it’s in my breeding). and my Mom Person has admired Helen Keller since she was a little tyke. It’s nice to see her biography in a picture book. We’ll be looking for this one. Thanks.


  6. I have admired Helen Keller since I was very young. Those opening sentences caught at my heart, knowing how much she lost. I am grateful that the author emphasizes how much she did. She was a truly amazing woman. Thank you for sharing this with us, Pat. Thank you so much.


    • Beth, the book is breathtaking. It tells her story intelaced with quote from Helen. Helen was amazing and she made such a contribution to the world in helping them understand the blind and deaf. She was feisty and passionate about the world.


  7. This is a great choice. I remember reading a biography of Helen Keller when I was in middle school — the first nonfiction book I can remember reading and actually enjoying. Both she and Annie Sullivan have such fascinating stories. Thanks for sharing this.


  8. What a wonderful book to find! Thank you for letting us know about it, Patricia. Helen Keller has been an inspiration to me my whole life, and I’m thrilled young children now have another way to learn about her story. Nice to know about the resources, too. I’ll definately be looking for this one to help others see their big world, too.


    • Yes, I was thrilled when I found this new release in the book store. A new generation have a wonderful resourece to learn about Helen. The book is beautiful and interlaced with Helen’s own wise comments.


  9. Patricia, you’ve picked one of my personal heroes. I remember being 7 or 8 years old and our family was visiting friends. The oldest daughter had to read the Helen Keller story for her homework, so she read it out loud to me. I was captivated. Since then I think I’ve read most every book about her. I did not know this had come out. Thank you for sharing.


  10. I love Helen Keller’s story. I do a lot of quote searching and whenever I come across something she said, it’s often so insightful. 🙂


  11. Oh Pat…I’ve always been fascinated with the story of Helen Keller. Suffering from poor vision myself, I am so in awe of her amazing accomplishments…she’s been an inspiration to me and to many others. Whenever I hesitate to do something because I think I can’t…I remember her achievements and am compelled onward. 🙂 I’m so glad there is a picture book that will enable young children to learn about her. 🙂 Great review!!!!


  12. Helen Keller has always been a favorite of mine too! I look forward to getting the book and sharing with my grandchildren.


  13. When I was a young girl, I read a book about Helen Keller and she became my hero. I hope this book will introduce young children of today to a remarkable woman, and perhaps she will influence their lives as well.


  14. Pingback: Wednesday Quotes « On the Homefront

  15. Thanks for sharing this book. I will keep an eye out for it in the library. It looks like a beautiful story. I love Helen’s quotes – write them down in my little pad and use them in my scrapbooking albums.


  16. Pingback: Illustrator Interview – Matt Tavares | Miss Marple's Musings

    • Thank you for sharing. What a remarkable story. Would you consider doing a guest blog about your son on my website. I get a lot of traffic from a variety of different commmunities. I think it would be helpful to my readership. My daughter grew up with a bi-lateral hearing impairment and wore hearing aids. If you are intested, let me know and I’ll send you an e-mail. No rush! — Pat


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