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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller Hardcover – July 10, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Miller's accomplished debut imagines Annie Sullivan's first experiences with her famous pupil, Helen Keller, from the young teacher's train ride to Alabama, during which she anticipated teaching a charge who had "no words, only sensations," to the breakthrough at the water pump, where she taught Helen to use language. Miller based her story on Sullivan's letters, excerpts of which begin each chapter, and in Sullivan's voice, Miller muses about the monumental questions and challenges that she faced: "It's up to me to show Helen that communication between people exists at all." Many lengthy passages detailing the wild, messy intimacy and the violent physical altercations between Sullivan and young Helen may tire some readers, but they amplify the visceral sense of Sullivan's exhausting struggle. In language that often reads like poetry, Miller creates a strong portrait of Sullivan's accomplishments, as well as her character—volatile, ferociously intelligent, and yearning for love and belonging, just like Helen. "Words bridge the gaps between two minds. Words are a miracle," Sullivan says. Miller's words reach beyond the historical facts here, encouraging readers to think about the small miracles of connection they can accomplish with words every day. Photos, a chronology, and an extensive bibliography conclude this stirring, fictionalized account. Engberg, Gillian

Review

"This moving story--for all ages--is about how Anne an underprivileged young woman awoke Helen Keller, the most famous woman of her time, to life and learning. "Miss Spitfire" is high drama about how language unlocks the world."

--Richard Peck, author of the Newbery Medal-winner "A Year Down Yonder"

* "Miller's accomplished debut imagines Annie Sullivan's first experiences with her famous pupil, Helen Keller... encouraging readers to think about the small miracles of connection they can accomplish with words every day."

--"Booklist", starred review

"Details drawn from Annie's letters and Helen's autobiography are fleshed out engagingly in the first-person voice of Miller's imagined Annie, the young "spitfire" who overcomes obstacles no matter the power of the adults in her life."

--"Kirkus Reviews"

"Children encountering [Annie and Helen] for the first time will feel an overwhelming sense of wonder and delight when Annie helps Helen make a communication breakthrough. School Library Journal Readers will appreciate Annie's devotion to her pupil and how her tenacity makes a difference in the young girl's life."

--"Kliatt"

"Miller brings history to life."

--"Voya

"

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416925422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416925422
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #995,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Authors that try to tackle any aspect of Helen Keller's life in a children's literary format are simultaneously blessed and cursed. On the one hand, talk about God's gift to authors. The emotional ups and downs of Helen's tale, the (dare I say) hope of her life, I mean she's a great historical character. Loads more interesting to a nine-year-old than your average everyday biographical figures. So there's that. On the other hand, none of this is a secret. As a result, my library's Helen Keller section of biographies is rivaled only by Martin Luther King Jr. So when I saw that someone had done a middle grade work of fiction regarding Helen and Annie Sullivan's early days, I hardly gave it a thought. Why read what we already know? I mean, if everyone knows a series of facts about someone, can there be any worthwhile reason to read yet ANOTHER story about her life and trials? The answer, as it happens, is yes. Debut author Sarah Miller shows us that even the most familiar story can become edge-of-your-seat gripping when the writing's cool and collected.

There's a reason this book is called "Miss Spitfire". Turns out, that was the nickname bestowed on Annie Sullivan when she attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind. Irish, alone in the world, half-blind, and with guts galore, Ms. Sullivan is terrified at the prospect of her very first job. She's being sent to work with one Helen Keller, a blind, deaf child. The hope is to work a "miracle" on her and teach her to bridge the gap between signing and the use of words. The task turns out to be more than she gambled for, however, when it appears that Helen has had the run of her household for years.
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Format: Hardcover
Teachers strive to inspire their students to do their best, to expand their horizons, and to challenge themselves. Annie Sullivan's life was one challenge after another, and her first teaching charge was no exception. Helen Keller was blind, deaf, and completely wild when Annie first came into her life. Little did either of them know then that they would have a breakthrough within weeks of Annie's arrival, and that they would remain friends for the rest of Annie's life.

MISS SPITFIRE: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller covers approximately the first month of Annie's work with Helen. Each chapter notes the date and contains a line or two from an actual letter written by Annie at that time. Annie narrates the story in first person as she comes to know Helen and her family. She speaks up when Helen's parents treat their daughter too gently, all the while wishing her own parents had been there for her. Meeting Helen's older brothers brings up both fond and sad memories of her beloved brother Jimmy. Annie begins teaching Helen to spell by tracing letters in her palm and insisting that Helen spell out what she does and what she wants.

Sarah Miller's debut shows a great deal of compassion. You can tell that the author has done her research, and that she wanted to stay true to the real events in Annie's life. The relationship between Annie and Helen was rocky at the start, and though Miller handles it with care, she never idealizes it nor sensationalizes it. She isn't afraid to show Annie physically struggling with her wild student, who bruised her teacher with her tiny yet powerful fists.

The novel is fueled by truth, determination, and introspection. This is not only about teaching Helen how to spell "doll" or "water," but about reaching her. Annie wanted Helen to really know what she was spelling - to honestly communicate - to fully understand.

Recommended for ages 8 and up - for all ages, really.
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Format: Hardcover
I've always been a HUGE Annie Sullivan fan so it was a no brainer that I was going to be reading this one. It took me all of a day to read because I simply couldn't put it down! The amazing thing is that my 12 year old brother who doesn't even like to read the back of the cereal box picked this up and was telling my parents all week the facts he was learning from this book!

I'm sold on any book that can get a reluctant reader that hooked.

Well done!
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Format: Hardcover
I'm an eleven year old boy. I really liked this book. I thought this story was very interesting. I liked the way it was written from Annie Sullivan's point of view.

As the mother of the reviewer, I was pleased when my son spontaneously relayed a fact that he had learned from the book while eating dinner one evening. He enjoyed reading the book and I am pleased that he learned something at the same time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Who doesn't like a story of resilience and persistence along with a strong dose of empathy! Anne Sullivan met a small version of herself. She may have been the only one on the planet that could ever have reached Helen!
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Format: Paperback
As a blind individual, I have always been drawn to Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Their relationship was complicated and consisted of many emotions: mainly pain, triumph, and, ultimately, love. Author Sarah Miller has expertly composed a vibrant symphony of words to depict the growing relationship between these individuals. "Miss Spitfire" spans the time period from March to April, 1887 and chronicles the brutal struggle the twenty-year-old Annie encountered when she tried to demolish the barrier of silence that had imprisoned Helen for for years. Told from Annie's perspective, this book is haunting and truly poetic. Annie endured abuse and unspeakable pain as a child as the result of the loss of her younger brother, and the reader glimpses Annie's craving for affection and love. I was particularly struck by the utter loneliness Annie encountered within her life. I learned so much about Annie's difficult childhood, which is in striking contrast to Helen's overindulged existance. The most memorable scene to me takes place at the dining table as Annie watches Helen greedily snatch tidbits from everyone's plate. Annie remembers meals at the Tewksbury asylum during this meal, and we see how Helen's parents coddling nature has turned the little girl into a trapped wild animal. We as readers are made to realize that a balance must be reached: love without discipline is little more than cruelty. It is up to Annie to find this balance as she seeks to unlock Helen's mind and teach her language.

I particularly liked that the Keller family was portrayed as overprotective yet ultimately strong. Each family member is empathetically portrayed. They are all willing to yield their daughter to someone who can help her. Helen's Aunt Eveline was portrayed particularly well.
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