Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

by Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller’s arresting debut novel will deeply satisfy readers who already... read more

Sarah Miller’s 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. It’s a name Sullivan quickly realizes fits young Helen, whom she has agreed to teach. 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 can’t hear, see, or speak really 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 Annie’s own authority. But to do so means battling not only Helen, but the will of a family that can’t bear to see the little girl upset. In Miller’s affecting, first-person narrative Annie Sullivan describes four transformative weeks of frustration, pain, sorrow, anger, determination, tenderness, and joy. Each chapter opens with a 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. (Age 10 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008

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