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Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller Hardcover – October 16, 2012


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078680890X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786808908
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 0.2 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

K-Gr 4-In a format similar to Martin's Big Words (Hyperion, 2001), Rappaport uses quotations from Helen Keller to provide the framework for this picture-book biography. A great design, incorporating the words in large type, makes this book visually striking. Large scale paintings, rendered in watercolor, pencil, and gouache, are presented on one and a half or double pages. The full images, without borders, invite children into Helen's world, while showing how big it truly became. The opening endpaper showcases the pivotal "water" moment, with teacher Annie Sullivan's and the child's hands accompanied by the quotation, "We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses." The narrative begins at Keller's childhood home, but expands out to describe her experiences at college, with public speaking, and in championing social causes. A series of excerpts from letters demonstrates her growing proficiency in writing. A dramatic spread shows the pupil and teacher in a boat, majestically cresting a wave, emphasizing what the youngster does experience more than what she does not. While there are many books available about Helen Keller for this age group, this title offers a unique and beautiful perspective on her life.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review

Helen Keller's transcendent leap across the barriers of her blindness and deafness continues to inspire. Rappaport recounts the well-known events of Helen's childhood-the illness that left her blind and deaf as a toddler, her wild willfulness and the advent of Annie Sullivan's companionship and tutelage with liberating results. The wide and tall trim size of this work allows Tavares' full, close-up, edge-to-edge paintings to bring readers into the story and helps convey Helen's passion, energy and delight as she defeats her limitations. Generous white space given to the text and the large font for Helen's own words in every spread invites readers to come close to the subject, to understand Helen's thrill at learning about the world and to taste some of her intense purpose and passion. What Rappaport adds to the familiar story about Keller is that this determined woman was never inclined to be pigeonholed. Keller continued to hunger after information, to learn about the world and to talk about it: "She spoke against war and for the right of women to vote and for justice for black Americans." Rappaport reveals that Keller had her critics, but once given a voice, she used it. There, one begins to realize, is the real story of Keller's impressive life. A magisterial account. (author's & illustrator's notes, timeline, sources) (Picture books/biography. 6-10)—Kirkus

K-Gr 4 In a format similar to Martin's Big Words (Hyperion, 2001), Rappaport uses quotations from Helen Keller to provide the framework for this picture-book biography. A great design, incorporating the words in large type, makes this book visually striking. Large scale paintings, rendered in watercolor, pencil, and gouache, are presented on one and a half or double pages. The full images, without borders, invite children into Helen's world, while showing how big it truly became. The opening endpaper showcases the pivotal "water" moment, with teacher Annie Sullivan's and the child's hands accompanied by the quotation, "We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses." The narrative begins at Keller's childhood home, but expands out to describe her experiences at college, with public speaking, and in championing social causes. A series of excerpts from letters demonstrates her growing proficiency in writing. A dramatic spread shows the pupil and teacher in a boat, majestically cresting a wave, emphasizing what the youngster does experience more than what she does not. While there are many books available about Helen Keller for this age group, this title offers a unique and beautiful perspective on her life. Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA—SLJ

This oversize picture book about Helen Keller focuses primarily on her innovative education by Anne Sullivan, but the presentation goes beyond Keller's youth to include her later work supporting pacifism, workers' unions, women's suffrage, civil rights, and opportunities for those with disabilities. The book's design makes good use of the spacious format. Appearing beside broad, horizontal illustrations, Rappaport's narrative is spaced out in poetic form. Each double-page spread also features a well-chosen quote from Keller's writing. Created in watercolor, pencil, and gouache, the sometimes dramatic illustrations show just how big Helen's world could be, picturing her in a college classroom, in a tree, on a stage, and in a factory with child laborers. The back endpapers illustrate the alphabet of hand signs that Sullivan taught Keller by making them within her hand. Readers intrigued by the Braille alphabet can feel the raised red dots on the jacket, which spell out the book's title. A worthwhile addition to biography shelves. - Carolyn Phelan—Booklist

Though different in scope, these picture book biographies both give powerful introductory looks at the huge challenges Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, faced and surmounted. Beginning with an excerpt from one of Annie's letters to a former teacher about first meeting Helen, Annie and Helen provides a more detailed look at Helen and her teacher's early years together. The text considers Annie's point of view as much as Helen's, and Annie's strength of character is highlighted. Peppered with excerpts from Annie's letters, the book comes full circle by concluding with the first letter Helen writes home on her own. Meanwhile, Helen's Big World covers the whole span of Helen's life from birth through her many years with Annie and after. Rappaport characteristically uses quotes to extend and heighten the emotion. A timeline at the end helps put important dates in perspective. Though this book focuses more on Helen than on Annie, readers get a more acute awareness of how much Annie sacrificed for Helen: "Teacher read many books to me. In spite of repeated warnings from oculists, she has always abused her eyes for my sake." In contrast to Col n's rather too-sedate line and watercolor pictures for Annie and Helen, Tavares's illustrations (ink, watercolor, and gouache) for Helen's Big World are, per the title, big and bold and often in intense close-up. Stirring and awe-inspiring, both books are appended with acknowledgments and further reading and include a chart of the finger alphabet Annie used. In addition, Annie and Helen's endpapers provide real photographs, and the back cover has a raised Braille alphabet; the cover of Helen's Big World includes the title in Braille. -julie roach—Horn Book

Reprising the format of Martin's Big Words (BCCB 1/02) and subsequent titles, Rappaport offers a picture-book biography of Helen Keller, distinguished by carefully chosen and integrated quotations from Keller herself. This is an effective introduction to the blind and deaf woman whose life story has perennially held strong appeal for children, most of whom will be particularly interested in her breakthrough tutelage by Annie Sullivan: "Annie gave Helen a doll and with her fingers traced the letters D-O-L-L on Helen's palm. Helen thought Annie wanted the doll back, so she kicked and screamed." After describing the misunderstandings and tantrums between teacher and student, Rappaport quotes Keller's summative comment, "In the still, dark world in which I lived, there was no tenderness." Figures appear stiff and waxen in many of Tavares' mixed-media scenes, and poses are frequently sentimentalized. The oversized format, however, allows him to feature hand movements, Braille reading, and grooved writing board techniques, which will assist readers in understanding the many ways Keller communicated with and studied the world around her. Author and illustrator notes, a list of important dates in Keller's life, a list of sources, and a manual language chart are included. No guide, however, is provided to decipher the Braille title embossed on the dust jacket, but libraries' ubiquitous mylar covering will probably render this point moot. EB—BCCB

Helen's Big World: 
The Life of Helen Keller Doreen Rappaport, illus. by Matt Tavares. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7868-0890-8 Punctuating the narrative with excerpts from Keller's own writing, Rappaport and Tavares, previously paired on Jack's Path of Courage, take a sweeping approach to their picture book biography, beginning when Keller was a healthy baby ("The beginning of my life was simple and much like every other little life") and ending with her death at 87, when she had long been a national icon and social activist ("my love for America is not blind. Perhaps I am more conscious of her faults because I love her so deeply"). While Annie Sullivan remains a pivotal figure (many key scenes from The Miracle Worker are replayed), it's refreshing to see Keller granted a greater sense of agency, even if the book leans toward hagiography. There is one exception: a single image that appears right before Sullivan's arrival, in which Helen's mother struggles to comfort her writhing, disconsolate daughter. Dark and almost demonic, it conveys instantly both the catastrophic nature of Helen's disabilities and the steely will that raged to be unleashed. Ages 6 8. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7868-0890-8—PW

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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My students enjoy reading it.
Julie
I've read this twice with my 8 year old granddaughter and know that she will ask for it again and again.
Jerilyn Marler
Also, the artwork is beautiful.
Katie Rasmussen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Great Kid Books on March 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Doreen Rappaport gives readers a clear sense of Helen Keller's life, from the illness that left her blind and deaf as a child, to her years with Annie, and then her accomplishments as an adult. Throughout it, Rappaport highlights Keller's own inspiring words in large, bold print. Young readers will be inspired not only by how Helen overcame her own disabilities, but how she used her voice to speak up for justice and equality for all.

I especially love the resources that Rappaport has pulled together on her website. Make sure you check them out for more information.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Catherine W. Hughes on December 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Doreen Rappaport paints a portrait of Helen Keller, pairing prose narrative with quotes from Helen Keller, herself. Painterly illustrations bring the text and Helen to life. This beautiful picture book for older readers will be loved by children ages 5-8.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jerilyn Marler on May 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Helen Keller's story is fascinating, moving, and inspiring. I've read this twice with my 8 year old granddaughter and know that she will ask for it again and again. She was reluctant the first time because it "sounded boring." However, the book gave us oodles of opportunity to talk about what was happening to Helen, how difficult it must have been, what it would be like to be blind or deaf ourselves. We had some terrific conversations. She really absorbed it. I found "The Miracle Worker" movie on t.v. a few days later and we watched it together. That really brought home the emotional and physical realities of Helen's early life. (Caution: I'd forgotten Annie's back story--living in an asylum as a child with her brother, who died in the asylum. These scenes can be disturbing to children. I was able to skip lightly over the explanations of what was going on.)

I love that the title of the book is in braille on the cover, that quotes from Helen occur frequently so we "hear" her own words, that the sign language alphabet is illustrated at the back, and that the book covers her whole life. She was an indomitable, incredibly talented woman. A worthy role model for all children.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Katie Rasmussen on June 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's wonderful to find a 'kids' book of Helen Keller that goes beyond the "water incident". My 5 year old niece has recently become fascinated by Ms Keller but keeps asking me what happened after she started to learn. I'm SO excited to share this book with her. Also, the artwork is beautiful.
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