Monday, June 18, 2012

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, by Joseph Lambert

This is an engaging and moving graphic novel about Annie Sullivan, describing, in flashbacks, her tragical childhood of loss and deprivation, her own partial blindness, and then her acclaimed work as Helen Keller's teacher.

Joseph Lambert created a special cartoon style--wordless, in mostly gray and black, and using simple human forms without visual details--for the period during which Helen, up to about age 8, had no language whatsoever, due to her blindness and deafness. These pages are interwoven with detailed, colorful pages showing what else is happening at the same time (such as conversations between Helen's parents and Annie), that Helen is not aware of.

Those of us familiar with some of the conventional biographies of Helen Keller will recognize these scenes, such as Helen running around her family's breakfast table, helping herself to everyone's plate, grabbing and eating their eggs. A strong pair of arms, which we know must be Annie's arms, are shown restraining Helen, repeatedly, making her sit in a chair, and hold a spoon, which Helen endlessly resists.

There is the well-known scene at a water pump, in which Helen finally understands what Annie has so long been trying to teach her--that the word for "water" represents water. And so Helen acquires language, which transforms her life. After this, their relationship deepens, and becomes a flourishing and life-long friendship and collaboration.

This beautiful book is very highly recommended.   2012.

K. Muhm

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