Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Tavares, Matt (Illustrator)
Disney/Hyperion Books 2012. 44 pages
First published: 2012
ISBN: 9780786808908 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Dewey: 362
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, dialogue

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:

In this illustrated biography, readers learn the remarkable story of Helen Keller, who became deaf, blind and mute when she was a toddler. The book explains her frustration at not being able to communicate with or understand others. It also explores the special relationship she developed with her teacher, Annie Sullivan, who was also a hero, given her determination to teach Helen to read, communicate and get an education.

The book provides opportunities to discuss disabilities, dignity, and having the courage to overcome obstacles and change society’s attitudes. The language is evocative and poetic: “We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses.” These inspirational quotes from Helen are highlighted in large, bold font to make them easily identifiable in the text, which is organized into verses. The illustrations are soft pastels that beautifully demonstrate how Helen discovered the world around her using touch and smell, from feeling the sea spray while on a boat to smelling the fragrance of a rose.

The book also includes a chart of the sign language learned by Helen, research sources and references to books and Web sites to learn more about Helen’s story. A timeline and informative author and illustrator notes provide additional context to the story.

  •  

    Discuss how society has evolved since the late 1800s in facilitating the independence of those with physical challenges (e.g. school elevators, Braille on menus, ramps, guide dogs, hearing aids, advanced medical treatments).

  •  

    Play a blindfold guessing game and use only three senses (touch, smell and sound) to guess an object you are handed. Describe your thinking aloud.

  •  

    Research the life of other people who have overcome challenges. Create a timeline of their lives (see the Important Dates page in the book) and present it to the class.

  •  

    Examine the cover (including the raised dots) and predict what the book will be about. What do you think the message in Braille says? (Find the answer on the last page.)

  •  

    Discuss the characteristics of a good friend. Find evidence that Helen and Annie had a true friendship.

  •  

    Create a timeline of important events in Helen’s life.

  •  

    Create a fact card about Helen Keller. Include biographical data such as where and when she was born, important dates and accomplishments, special people in her life and a description of her character.

  •  

    Think of a teacher who you appreciate or who inspires you. Write about what makes this teacher so special.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Science and Technology