Today I have the pleasure of sharing a book review for an upcoming release : Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson, with illustrations by Raul Colon.
Annie and Helen tells the remarkable story of Helen Keller's journey through her relationship with her teacher, Annie Sullivan. The story is a familiar one to most, but Hopkinson and Colon make the story engaging and accessible for young children in this book. Hopkinson's prose is beautiful and poetic, and is a wonderful example of using expressive language in non-fiction storytelling.
Helen was like a small, wild bird,
throwing herself against the bars of
a dark and silent cage.
Colon is able to communicate the story well in pictures, also. The reader gets to see Helen transform from a wild girl with no way to communicate with the world, to a young woman writing letters home from college.
Although many people are familiar with the story of Annie and Helen, many of us experienced it in a longer book in elementary school, perhaps a beginning biography, or in a study of non-fiction books. Hopkinson's interpretation of the story not only makes it more accessible for younger children, it provides a teaching tool. I think about children in first and second grade who are learning about fiction and non-fiction, the features of books, and the features of language, as they grow as authors. Hopkinson's language is so expressive - but at the same time, factual. It would be a wonderful example for children learning about writing styles.
Annie spelled into Helen's palm all day long.
Like someone on a windy peak
trying to kindle a fire for warmth,
Annie kept hoping for a spark to catch.
A final striking aspect of this book, for me, is its ability to begin to explain something as abstract as loss of sight and hearing. For young children with no experience with deafness or blindness, it is a difficult concept to understand. With his illustrations, Colon shows that Helen is, in many ways, just like any other child. And with her words, Hopkinson is able to tell the story of Helen's learning in small pieces that the reader can digest before learning more. From trusting her teacher to fingerspelling to braille and writing, Helen's journey is told in an understandable way.
(The back cover contains a raised Braille alphabet.)
Annie and Helen is an example of a book that could be used for multiple purposes, and for multiple age groups. From a read aloud for preschoolers to a book for readers to explore as part of an inquiry on language and communication, I think this would be a nice addition to a classroom or home library. I rarely use "non-fiction" as a read aloud, but Annie and Helen is almost a different genre, combining the elements of a great read-aloud with true and meaningful facts.
Thanks to Random House Kids, the publisher of Annie and Helen, I have a copy of the book to give away to a Bakers and Astronauts reader! If you'd like a chance to win, please leave a comment below by midnight on Monday September 10th, sharing how you might use literature like this at home or in the classroom. I'll choose a comment at random and announce the winner on Tuesday, September 11th, when the book is released. If you are a teacher beginning your school year, this would be a wonderful tool that is bound to work within your curriculum!
I am part of a Blog Tour for Annie and Helen, and you can visit all of these other stops for more information about the book! The book is available for pre-order now,
and will be released on September 11th.
September 1st: Watch. Connect. Read
September 1st: SharpRead
September 2nd: Nerdy Book Club
September 3rd: Bakers and Astronauts
September 4th: Two Writing Teachers
September 5th: Cracking the Cover
September 6th: Teach Mentor Texts
September 7th: Nonfiction Detectives
September 8th: Booking Mama
September 9th: Children’s Book Review
September 10th: Random Acts of Reading
September 11th: 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast