Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle

Barry, Holly M. (Author)
Thermes, Jennifer (Illustrator)
Albert Whitman 2013. 32 pages
First published: 2013
ISBN: 9780807531983 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Dewey: 362
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This story, based on the life of Helen Keller, recounts her birth and the childhood illness that caused her to lose her sight and hearing. It describes the arrival of Anne Sullivan, who teaches her sign language and how to read Braille. But the main focus is her special relationship with Belle, the dog that provides companionship and helps her through the darkest period of her life.

Cartoon-style watercolour illustrations deftly recreate the Alabama outdoors and the strong bonds Helen had with both Sullivan and her patient, gentle and affectionate dogs. Simple, eloquent text, laced with intriguing real-life details, make this an excellent read-aloud choice. In one touching scene, Helen returns home after learning to speak. When she calls and her devoted dog runs out to lick her hand, Helen is “filled with joy. Now Belle could understand her too!”

Included are a complete Braille alphabet, a finger spelling alphabet on the inside covers and two pages of endnotes filled with details about Helen’s many dogs. This biography is sure to inspire discussion about the power of the human spirit to overcome hardship.

  •  

    Discuss why Helen had so many animal companions throughout her life. Consider the concept of unconditional love. How did Belle demonstrate such a love for Helen?

  •  

    Discuss the importance of asking for help or reaching out to someone when you are struggling. How did Helen’s teacher and Belle help her?

  •  Research other famous people with disabilities. What challenges did they overcome? What do they have in common with Helen? Share what you have learned with the class.
  •  Discuss how different your life would be if you could not see or hear.
  •  

    Compare Helen’s situation with learning a new language. How is it the same; how is it different?

  •  

    With a partner, practise spelling and guessing new words from the text, using sign language or Braille.

  •  Discuss how animals can help people with disabilities. 
  •  

    Think of ways you can help a person with disabilities. How do you introduce yourself when you want to help?

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To solve problems
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Science and Technology