Review: Helen’s Big World by Doreen Rappaport

helens big world

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares

This picture book biography of Helen Keller celebrates both the accomplishments of Helen Keller in overcoming her world of darkness and silence and those of her teacher Annie Sullivan.  The book begins with Helen as a small baby, before she had an unknown illness at 19 months that took her sight and hearing away.  It then moves through her attempts to continue to communicate, the frustration that caused her tantrums, and the slow progression of learning that led to the seminal moment at the water pump that connected the letters in her hand to the outside world.  Readers will see how Helen learned to write, read in Braille, and put her hands on people’s faces to feel their lips move so she could understand their speech.  The book continues to show how Helen Keller spoke up for social injustices that she felt were wrong.  This is a testament to what a brilliant mind and a great teacher can create.

Rappaport has somehow condensed the complicated story of Keller’s life into a very readable picture book that has a brisk pace and invites readers to find out more about this remarkable woman.  Throughout the book, Keller’s own words are used to illustrate points in the story.  Shown in their own font that is colorful and set apart from the rest of the text in size too, her words shine.

Tavares’ illustrations reveal the marvel of Helen Keller’s learning and education.  There is a light to the images once the learning begins that contrasts with the darkness of her earlier life.  Throughout Keller is shown experiencing the senses she does have, from the scent of a rose to the feel of the breeze on her face. 

An inspirational figure, Helen Keller continues to be a beacon for overcoming obstacles and using one’s mind.  This book is a beautiful tribute to her.  Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

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