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Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller (Center for Cartoon Studies Presents) Hardcover – March 27, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan is given new life in an imaginative graphic novel. This volume from The Center for Cartoon Studies focuses on the trials both Annie and Helen struggle with in their lives. If Helen was a trial for her family and Annie over the years, she is literally put on trial at the Perkins Institution. The final third of the book is devoted to this "trial," not nearly as well known as the famous scene at the well, where Helen finally makes the mental connection that water is always water, whether in a cup, in a pitcher or running from a pump. Having gone on to learn to write, she is accused of plagiarizing her story "The Frost King," which was published in the Perkins Institution's alumni magazine. Interrogated for two hours, Helen was so devastated that she never wrote fiction again. The incident allows Lambert to go beyond the famous well scene to further explore the nature of words, language and ideas. "If your ideas don't come from teacher, where do they come from?" Helen's interrogators ask. It's a sophisticated, sometimes overly abstract, presentation, but the volume, like its predecessors, is visually appealing and daring. Helen's perspective is powerfully communicated in dialogue-free black panels in which she is represented as only a gray silhouette. A visual stunner that covers new ground. (panel discussions, bibliography, suggested reading) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-14) Kirkus"

The latest graphic-format book to come out of the Center for Cartoon Studies (which has done books on Satchel Paige, Harry Houdini, Amelia Earhart, and Henry David Thoreau) opens yet another fascinating page into history. The relationship between Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, is a well-documented and celebrated one: Sullivan, who was visually impaired herself, bridged the seemingly insurmountable communication gulf for the deaf and blind Keller. But it's one thing to know the story, and a whole other thing to actually experience it. In a brilliantly conceived and executed maneuver, Lambert uses a dynamic interplay between words and images to convey how someone could learn to communicate without access to either. In compact 16-panel grids that focus tightly on hands and faces, six-year-old spitfire Keller initially wanders through a blacked-out void, then struggles to interact with others and the nameless objects that surround her, and finally begins to make sense of the world as language takes root and allows her to know what distinguishes, say, a log from a branch or one color from another. At the same time, Lambert folds in the story of Sullivan's own anguished upbringing and provides a running commentary lifted from Sullivan's journals and letters, documenting both the severe setbacks and astounding breakthroughs she shared with Keller. The rest is history, but rarely is it presented in such a breathtaking, original, and empathetic fashion. - Ian Chipman Booklist"

A gray silhouette of a child in a dark room opens this latest addition to the exemplary line of comic strip biographies from the Center for Cartoon Studies. Cartoonist Lambert employs three pages of such panels to show the child, Helen Keller, eating with her hands while a pair of tentacle-like blue arms forces her into a chair, trying-and failing-to persuade her to use a spoon. At intervals throughout the book, the silhouettes return to give a sense of how Helen's world might have felt from the inside-dim, bewildering, rageful, and, eventually, enlightened by language. Annie Sullivan's own words convey her determination to teach Helen despite obstacles such as Helen's coddling parents. Lambert shifts back and forth in time, sometimes disorientingly, to depict episodes from Sullivan's hardscrabble past-as an orphan at the Tewksbury Almhouse and then a charity student at the Perkins Institution for the Blind (as it was called in 1880). The book continues through Annie and Helen's 1891 stay at Perkins, ending abruptly (and oddly) with Helen's dismissal for unintentional plagiarism. Still, though most readers will be familiar with the historic moment at the water pump when Sullivan's lessons suddenly take hold, it's hard not to be moved by Lambert's depiction of the scene, from outside and in. On the outside it's a brilliant sunny day, while inside Helen, though still dark, the gray figure and the blue figure finally have names, their embracing shapes labeled "Helen" and "Teacher." Appended with notes on particular cartoon panels and a bibliography. christine m. heppermann Horn Book"

Gr 6-8 The story of Sullivan, who was visually impaired herself, starts off with her in the Keller home wrestling with the difficult task of teaching the young blind and deaf child. As the story progresses, readers see the difficult times that Sullivan had as a child, losing family and becoming an orphan, and then being hired by the Kellers. None of these things is easy, but she finally breaks through to Helen and, as her understanding reaches new levels, she still has to deal with perceptions and expectations that others hold over both of them. Told from Sullivan's viewpoint, this color-filled graphic novel has many of the simple drawings blacked out with shapes or colored blobs to represent how she sees people and items. Much of the narration also comes from letters written to her old schoolmaster and is done in script. A wonderful resource for reports or interesting nonfiction reading, this graphic novel does a great job of describing how things were for the teacher and her pupil and the challenges they both faced. The book concludes with a four-page section that explains aspects of the various panels. Mariela Siegert, Westfield Middle School, Bloomingdale, IL SLJ"

Lambert's graphic novel focuses on the early years of the relationship between Helen Keller, who had been blind and deaf since she was a toddler, and her live-in teacher, Annie Sullivan, a young woman whose own visual impairment and pedagogical instincts gave her insight on how to reach and educate the unsocialized child. Many readers will already be familiar with the story, particularly the famous breakthrough moment at the water pump and Helen's insatiable curiosity and rapid accrual of vocabulary and syntax. Perhaps less known, however, is the bitter episode on which this title ends, in which Helen and Annie are accused of plagiarism after Helen's published story, "The Frost King," is discovered to be a close retelling of another work. Lambert relies heavily on a layout of sixteen frames to a page, a stylistic choice that allows him to slow the action and zero in on the painstaking effort involved in acquiring and transmitting information by finger spelling, an effect that's informative if a touch monotonous. More successful is the book's frequent use of an amorphous suggestion of Helen's shape on a black background, which helps the reader assume Helen's paradoxically sightless "view." A bibliography is included, but readers will be more immediately drawn to the closing notes, which coordinate with specific passages to supply additional background. Suggest this title in conjunction with Lawlor's Helen Keller: Rebellious Spirit (BCCB 9/10) and Delano's Helen's Eyes. EB BCCB"

About the Author


Joseph Lambert (www.submarinesubmarine.com) is the creator of various self-published comics, and also a co-editor of the "Sundays a"nthology series and "I Will Bite You!," a collection of short comic stories published by Secret Acres. A graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies, his comics and illustrations have appeared in "The Best American Comics," "Komiksfest! Review," and "DarkHorse Presents," as well as in" Business Week" and "Popular Mechanics." Joseph lives in White River Junction, Vermont.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
  • Series: Center for Cartoon Studies Presents
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; F First Edition edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423113365
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423113362
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #713,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing book with incredible illustrations. I love how it tells the story using both Annie Sullivan's letters and also visual interpretations of what Helen's experience may have been like. That especially, the visual interpretation of Helen's experience, really struck a chord with me. It made me understand her in a way that I never had before. I think it is the magic of this kind of medium that can add something so special to a story I have known since I was a little girl.
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Format: Hardcover
Although I find Helen Keller as remarkable as anyone else, I'm always leery of anyone wanting me to read anything about here. I'm inspired plenty already, thank you very much, said the intolerable ironist. And I would never have considered picking this one up had I not been blown away by the excerpt in Best American Comics. I was moved by those pages and I was moved by the book. The moment where Helen discovers language is so thrilling I nearly wept.

An excellent choice made by Lambert is to let us get to know Annie better---her backstory is arguably more tragic than Helen's---and to understand her spunk and drive and determination and fortitude. She is a true hero.

Besides the characters and the story, one of the great successes of this volume is its means of representing Helen's aloneness in a blank world. The way those in the world intrudes into her space---how it threatens---builds empathy for Helen as much as any art could. Which is remarkable, given that comics would not have been an easy medium for Helen Keller to enjoy.

Not that that would have stopped her.
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Format: Hardcover
My second grader was very interested in reading this book and learning about Helen Keller. It is written in a "comic book" style. However, half of the font (descriptions) are in cursive font, while the "bubbles" are in regular print - and she couldn't read it. Believe it or not, schools don't really teach "real" cursive any more. I was interested in the book enough
to read it to her myself.

Hellen was an amazing woman. She was so determined to communicate with the world that she learned the alphabet and managed to express her thoughts, as well as finger spelling method.

Helen wrote one story in her life (The Frost King) and was accused of plagiarism. Helen heard the original story as a child and could not understand how one could "own the words or stories". She never wrote any stories after that.
Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller were not just teacher and student, but also life long friends.

Reading this book lifts spirit, and makes you believe it's all possible and achievable.

P.S. the cursive writting is taken from journals and letters Annie Sullivan (Hellen's teacher) wrote in real life. This text was slightly edited to make it easier to understand.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing graphic novel! In this story about Helen Keller's young life we are focusing more on her teacher, Annie Sullivan, and her backstory. The artwork in this book is well thought out. When we begin the book all passages that are from Helen's perspective are drawn with a black background with a featureless childlike figure of a solid color as the main image of each box. When Helen meets Ann their perspectives are woven together, but it is clear to the reader which boxes represent Helen's point of view. And the more Helen learns and experiences, the more we see her self image begin to sharpen. Flipping between Helen's present and Annie's past we learn how Ann Sullivan spent her early years. With passages from Ann's own journals spread throughout the book, we are directly linked to the history behind this story. Recommended for grades 4-8
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Format: Hardcover
This book is magical, and it left me with a big smile on my face. I love the way Helen's black world is drawn, so you are never allowed to get distracted by the story and forget that that was her reality. It was so very moving. Although I have read several books about both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, I learned so much from this book. I love it when Annie stops "teaching" lessons so that real learning can take place. The wording is beautiful, the drawings fantastic. I was very impressed. Although I love illustrated novels, I did not buy this book for myself, I bought it for my 6th grade students, thinking that it was for children. I read it first and was blown away. It was just as good as any of my top favorite graphic novels. It is superbly written. What a fantastic author!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great interpretation of a well-known story! The story of Helen Keller has been told time and time again through film, picture, and text, but this graphic novel breathes new life into Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller’s stories. The illustrations allow for flexible movements between the past and present; something that is hard to accomplish through text alone. I was also taken by the artful way Lambert was able to portray Helens’s confusion and realizations; it gave me a new understanding and appreciation of her. I have never been as taken by a telling of Helen’s learning the word “water” as I was while reading this book. This book can be appreciated by readers as young as 8, and well into adulthood.
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