Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller
by Joseph Lambert
Hyperion, 2012.  92 pgs. Biography.

     This graphic expression of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan's lives, sponsored by The Center for Cartoon Studies, is best-suited for older children, sixth grade and up, because it deals not only with the bond between the two, and Sullivan's heroic efforts to teach Helen language and self-reliance, but with Annie Sullivan's lonely and often unhappy life before the two met. Annie was virtually blind from a childhood infection.  Her mother died when she was young and her father abandoned his children.  She and her younger brother were sent to the Tewksbury Almshouse where her brother died.  Alone and neglected, Annie appealed to be released and was sent to the Perkins Institution for the Blind where she was mocked by the other students for being a hick.  Determined to succeed, she soon became the best student in the school and was recommended upon graduation as a teacher for Helen. Annie and Helen's basic story is well known; Annie's simmering rage arising from her early life, not so much. The complex relationship between the two and between Annie and her former administrator and fellow students at Perkins lies at the heart of this thoroughly researched, well-drawn, and subtle text.  Young people who want to dig deeply into Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller's story should embrace this fine text. Helpful notes and explanations are appended.

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