Sunday, March 10, 2013

Celebrating Women's History - two wonderful books on Helen Keller

I have admired Helen Keller since I was a young girl. And so I was thrilled to read both Doreen Rappaport’s and Deborah Hopkinson’s new picture book biographies: Annie and Helen AND Helen's Big World. I especially love the way these two books complement each other, helping young readers get a fuller picture of this remarkable woman.
Annie and Helen
by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Raul Colón
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2012
ages 5 - 9
available at your local library and on Amazon
Focusing on the relationship between Annie and Helen, Deborah Hopkinson shows the remarkable transformation that happened in an incredibly short space of time. I was particularly struck by how Hopkinson and Colón used primary source documents to give young readers a real sense of Annie and Helen.
Helen's Big World:
The Life of Helen Keller
by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Matt Tavares
Disney / Hyperion, 2012
ages 5 - 9
available at your local library and on Amazon
Doreen Rappaport gives readers a clear sense of Helen's whole life, from the illness that left her blind and deaf as a child, to her years with Annie, and then her accomplishments as an adult. Throughout it, Rappaport highlights Keller's own inspiring words in large, bold print. Young readers will be inspired not only by how Helen overcame her own disabilities, but how she used her voice to speak up for justice and equality for all.

Deborah Hopkinson and Doreen Rappaport are two nonfiction authors I admire tremendously for the way they convey their passion about their subjects to children. I had the great pleasure of interviewing both of these remarkable authors over at the blog Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month. Here are a few tantalizing excerpts:

Doreen Rappaport tells us that "Helen Keller’s life is the story of empowerment and possibility, a journey from powerlessness to power, from helplessness into helpfulness, from ignorance to knowledge... I realized that kids react emotionally to her struggles and conquering of her extraordinary disabilities. Her life confirms for them that even under the most difficult circumstances people can triumph."

Deborah Hopkinson says, "Although the moment at the water pump is now so well-known, actually it’s what happened in the months after that I found most fascinating. It seemed natural to use the details in Annie Sullivan’s letters in my story... Annie’s own excitement and Helen’s amazing progress are palpable in her correspondence."

For more of this fascinating conversation, head over to Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month. While you're there, stay a while and explore the amazing resources they are offering this month.

I would like to say a special thank you to Deborah Hopkinson and Doreen Rappaport for their time and thoughtfulness in this interview. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Random House and Disney / Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Hi, Mary Ann,

    I love the picture book as a format, particularly when various authors use it to explore the same subject or life. It's so interesting to compare and contrast the approaches different authors and illustrators choose, and highlights the idea that storytelling is an art.

    Thanks for the reviews!

    Loree Burns

  2. I have both of these books as part of my biography mentor text collection- wonderful books, both.

  3. i personally haven't read any of the Hellen Keller books, but DD has had it read to her in school this month, I must ask her teachers whether they had one of these to read aloud's. Thanks for sharing! These suggestions come at the very right time for us :)

  4. Helen Keller was one of my kid-hood heroes. And Annie Sullivan too - what patience and imagination.

  5. Love the reviews for Women's History Month. Hellen Keller is very inspiring and inspired me as a child.