by Holly M. Barry
Albert Whitman & Company, 2013
Many know the story of Helen Keller’s journey to learn to communicate. And many have heard of Anne Sullivan, the brilliant teacher who helped Helen understand. But have you ever heard about Belle the dog? In this new picture book biography of Helen Keller’s early life, readers are introduced to her beloved dog, Belle, who is with Helen every step of the way!
From School Library Journal: PreS-Gr 2–Keller was a lifelong dog lover. When an illness at a young age left her blind and deaf, and feeling alone and afraid, she found solace in the family pets. Belle, an Irish setter, became her closest companionas she struggled to communicate and discovered the world around her through her lessons with Anne Sullivan. Examples of Sullivan’s teachings are supported by individual placards representing each letter/sign in the words Helen learned. As her world opened up, the warm illustrations become suffused with light. The complete alphabet in Braille is inserted in the middle of the narrative and displayed on the endpapers in sign language. This brief introduction to Keller’s early life concludes with a note on her love of dogs and a brief biography of her later years. A pleasant companion to David A. Adler’s A Picture Book of Helen Keller (Holiday House, 1990).
–Janet Weber, Tigard Public Library
From Booklist: Centering primarily on Helen Keller’s early years, this picture-book biography provides an accessible introduction point: Helen’s special friendship with her Irish setter Belle. Born in Alabama in 1880, Helen lost her sight and hearing following a childhood illness. Though unable to communicate, she found solace with her pet dogs, especially Belle, her companion when Helen meets teacher Anne Sullivan in 1887. This shows Belle with Helen during their lessons, as she learns finger spelling and then braille. Helen and Anne then go to Boston, where Helen learns to speak; when they return home, Helen is able to call for Belle, and the two are happily reunited. A short, simple text and watercolor illustrations, accented with lively and poignant touches, convey Keller’s experiences and joy as the world progressively opens up to her. Endnotes, in denser, lengthier prose, highlight aspects of Keller’s adult life, accomplishments, and lifelong affection for dogs. Intriguing and inspiring, this will make readers want to learn more about Helen Keller. Endpaper illustrations depict the sign language alphabet. Grades 1-3. –Shelle Rosenfeld
“Helen Keller’s life is summarized for younger children in this attractively illustrated biography that uses Keller’s love for dogs as a unifying thematic thread.”–Kirkus Reviews