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Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

by Sarah Miller

Published by Atheneum, 2007
208 pages
ISBN: 1-4169-2542-2

Ages 10 and older

Sarah Millerís arresting debut novel will deeply satisfy readers who already know about Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, but it will be no less exceptional to those who come to the enthralling story without prior knowledge. Miller takes the title of her marvelously well-researched novel from the nickname given to Annie Sullivan while she was a student at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. Itís a name Sullivan will quickly realize fits young Helen, whom she has agreed to teach. Twenty-year-old Annie arrives at Helenís home in Alabama already nervous and scared. She is quickly appalled by the challenge before her. Helen is a wild child. Her family gives in to her every whim in order to minimize her volatile tantrums. She is clearly bright, but can this girl who canít hear, see or speak learn? Even as she struggles with that question, Annie knows that the first thing she must do is teach Helen to control herself, and to respect Annieís own authority. But to do so means battling not only Helen, but the will of a family that canít bear to see the little girl upset. In Millerís affecting, first-person narrative Annie Sullivan describes four transformative weeks full of frustration, pain, sorrow, anger, determination, tenderness and joy. Each chapter opens with an excerpt from the letters Sullivan was writing to one of her teachers back at Perkins during that time, and Miller weaves those brief lines and phrases into a richly textured tapestry of storytelling. (MS) ©2007 Cooperative Childrenís Book Center

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