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Helen Keller: Rebellious Spirit by Laurie…
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Helen Keller: Rebellious Spirit

by Laurie Lawlor

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A solid and informative biography of Helen Keller (for children above the age of ten, and anyone who might want a thorough, but not overly detailed introduction to Helen Keller's life), I quite enjoyed Helen Keller: Rebellious Spirit. Laurie Lawlor's narrative reads easily and is quite engaging (a bit textbook-like perhaps, but full of interesting information, historical details, names etc.). The many black and white photographs of Helen Keller, Annie Sullivan and others (like Alexander Graham Bell and Mark Twain, for example), as well as the numerous photographs of some of Helen Keller's domiciles are an added bonus. Combined with reproductions of newspaper clippings, these photographs do not only provide a pictorial chronology of Helen Keller's life, they display the fashions and lifestyles of late 19th and early and middle 20th century America.

As much as I generally enjoyed reading this book, I do wonder at the almost constant negativity of the author towards Helen Keller's teacher, Annie Sullivan. I know that Annie Sullivan was supposedly a rather difficult person with a mercurial temperament (and I also realise that she was described as often being rather possessive of Helen). I did not expect Laurie Lawlor to portray Annie Sullivan (or even Helen Keller, for that matter) as saintly and inherently good, but the fact that so many of the references to Annie Sullivan are both negative and often judgmental in tone, does leave me wondering wether the author has some kind of personal negative agenda/vendetta against Helen Keller's teacher. Be that as it may, I still highly recommend Helen Keller: Rebellious Spirit. It is a wonderful introductory biography of a courageous and inspirational woman, a remarkable person who is all too often only known and remembered for her childhood, for the events portrayed in William Gibson's play The Miracle Worker (and the movies based on the play). ( )
  gundulabaehre | Mar 31, 2013 |
Born June 27, 1880 to Kate and Captain Arthur Keller at their Ivy Green family home in Alabama, Helen Keller grew up to be what some called a modern day saint. She was born seeing and hearing, the same as any other child, but in February 1882, Keller fell ill at 19 months old. The doctor informed her parents that Keller would not live, but miraculously her fever vanished one day. Unfortunately, Keller was also deaf and a few days later she also lost her sight. Although the family was not rich, they spared to expense in searching for a cure. The attention Keller received as a child tunred her into a very bossy and intolerable child. her situation made her frustrated and she struck out throwing tantrums and purposely getting into trouble. Alexander Graham Bell, through his friend Michael Anagnos, made arrangements to have a teacher travel to Ivy Green and mentor young Keller. Annie Sullivan was the chosen teacher and traveled to meet the Keller family. Shortly after her arrival, she began to battle the undisciplined Keller. Annie decided she must be with Helen alone and away from the distractions of the family, but after only a week Keller's parents insisted their daughter be brought home. Annie tried unsuccessfully to spell words into Helen's hand. At last, she took Hlen out to the pump-house and demonstrated the word "water" as she pumped from the spout. Helen immediately had a realization of the finger movements Annie had been trying to teach her. From 1888 to 1892, Helen was an unofficial student of The Perkins School where she took tuition free classes. Against all odds she entered Radcliffe College with Annier at her side, but the pair constantly had to study just to keep up. With the help of Annie and Harvard English instructor John Macy, Helen put together her book The Story of My Life and it was published in 1903. Two years later Annie and John were married, but it didn't last. Meanwhile, in 1910 Helen had her damaged eye surgically removed and repalced with a glass one to improve her appearance. She also learned to speak, although, her voice was not pleasant. Soon her secretary, twenty-nine year old Peter Fagan, proposed marriage. He went to Boston to apply for a marriage license and before Helen could breaks the news to her family, The Boston Globe broke the story. Helen's mother was furious and demanded she issue a statement of denial, which she did. Hoever, Helen was planning an elopement, but her mother caught wind of the scheme. Several times, Fagan attempted to take Helen away, but finally faded from her life. She later went to California to film Deliverance, the story of her life. Meanwhile, her beloved teacher Annie was growing sicker and weaker. Annie died on Ocptber 20, 1936 at fifty-six years old leaving Helen on her own. Helen continued on and another movie The Miracle Worker was made of her life. Thirty-two years after Annie passed away, eighty year old Helen died on June 1, 1968.

I enjoyed reading this biography about the astounding Helen Keller. She seems to have been a very impressive woman. I liked that the inside cover of this book has pictures of hand motions for each letter of the alphabet and that it also has several pictures of Helen and the people in her life. It also has a time line of events in her life.

I would use this book int he classroom to teach students sign language. We emphasize foreign language, but this is a form of communication that is important to learn too. I think it would be interesting to have the students wear earplugs and cover their eyes so that they may "feel" from a different perspective and have an appreciation for their sight and hearing. Later, they could write a paper about this experience. This book could also be used in relation to the American Women of Acheivement unit including Lousia May Alcott.
  kellidenise | Mar 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0823415880, Hardcover)

A biography that sheds new light on this extraordinary woman.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:38 -0400)

Recounts the life and achievements of Helen Keller who overcame the handicaps of being deaf and blind.

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