Although I know the basic facts about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, this book taught me a whole lot that I didn’t know. It begins when Annie Sullivan arrives at the Keller house to begin teacher Helen and continues in a chronological fashion that is interrupted by flashbacks to Annie’s childhood. Turns out that Annie had a lousy early life-orphaned, kept in a home for the poor that was later the target of investigations for the horrible treatment people in it received, her only sibling dying from TB, and then finally getting sent to the Perkins School for the Blind. She was smart and capable, but you get the impression that she was a difficult person to get along with. Which may have made her just the right teacher for Helen, who was a wild thing when they first meet.
I liked how when Helen and Annie talked to each other their hands are shown signing into each other and then the words were above. Not speech bubbles unless someone was actually speaking aloud. Much of the story is also told by Annie’s letters to her mentor, who is at the school for the blind. The process of teaching Helen was fascinating. I find it really hard to get my head around imagining being blind and deaf. In fact, it’s so distressing for me that when I do imagine it I have to quickly make myself stop.
There is more to the story, though, then just the whole “miracle worker” part. Quite a bit of drama comes when Helen is older and she and Annie return to Perkins. Although not students there, her old mentor wants to use their fame and publicity for the school and that makes Annie resentful and drives a wedge between them. Then there is a fascinating plagiarism story that was apparently quite the scandal.
I liked this quite a bit, especially because I learned so much more to the Helen Keller story than I already knew. There is a helpful afterward that gives even more information about different elements of the story.