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

4.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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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

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"

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"

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"

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"
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Series: Big Words
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; Teacher's Edition edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078680890X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786808908
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
We purchased this book on a recommendation and were not let down. Our children loved listening to the story of Helen Keller. It was moving and provided a very nice introduction to sensitize our children to the vision-impaired. Beautiful book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book. I love the format and illustrations. My students enjoy reading it. It's a must for classroom use. Thank you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is illustrated nicely. We have not used it in our class yet so we are not sure how it will be received. As teachers, we feel it is a great book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We checked this book out at the library and it sparked our 5 yo girl's imagination and now she wants to know more about Helen Keller. I think it is also helping her learn empathy for others.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most beautiful book written about Helen Keller for children!!! Very sensitive, very well versed, and consistently aware of the times she lived in. A very moving children's book that is very helpful to show how thankful we are for Helen Keller and the person who helped her so much in her life.
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