Brad Meltzer teaches invaluable lessons in his new children’s book, I am Helen Keller. The book documents Keller’s life and focuses on her childhood in an easy to understand first person narrative. Meltzer accurately captures the optimism and determinism Keller is known for, such as the last line summarized: “I am Helen Keller and I won’t let anything stop me.” At the same time, Meltzer realistically addresses the frustrations Keller felt throughout the obstacles she faces after losing her sight and hearing, such as her struggle with getting the attention of her dog, Belle.
Keller’s ultimate success comes upon her graduating college, after learning how to read through braille (the book even includes a braille alphabet that you can touch and feel the bumps to form your own name!), learning how to communicate (in three different languages!), and not giving up when life is challenging. Helen Keller’s life epitomizes perseverance, a crucial quality to teach children. Meltzer gets that across by taking the reader through Keller’s inspirational life in an easy to follow, well written manner.
Along with teaching perseverance, I am Helen Keller shows that people with disabilities have the same emotions and goals as everyone else. That is so important for children to know! Lastly, the end of the book mentions Keller’s work with activism for the education of other people of disabilities, women, African Americans, and the poor. Meltzer writes, “But the most important thing I did was to make sure that other people with disabilities could get the same education I had” and “to help people who needed it the most.” This is one of the most important lessons of the book; that someone who went through such a hard time uses her experience and her success to help others.
Christopher Eliopoulos illustrated the book in a beautiful way. Starting with the inside of the book covers, cheerfulness exhumes from the art. The cartoonish pictures make the story captivating and fun. There is a consistent quality of illustration throughout the book, the typography is perfectly sized, spaced and integrated throughout, and the layout definitely draws the reader in. The details on each page make it feel realistic, and Eliopoulos specifically did an awesome job on the characters’ expressions. Helen’s emotions were immediately clear on every page, helping the reader feel fully absorbed in her life and her story. Each book in Meltzer’s series, “Ordinary People Change the World” looks amazing, and I would love to include them in my classroom’s bookshelf!