Helen Keller

When checking out nonfiction books on a famous life like this one, there are so many options, that it can be overwhelming. Disappointing, too, if you order books without seeing them, and they turn out to be dull. So here are a variety of books for a variety of ages on Helen Keller.

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Hand in Hand: based on the real-life story of Helen Keller and Martha Washington, by Jean Little

The author develops this historical fiction novel based on the real relationship that Helen had as a girl with Martha, the cook’s daughter, who was her first friend.  Chapter book, ages 7-10.

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Annie and Helen, by Deborah Hopkinson and Raul Colon

A picture book that begins with Helen’s inability to communicate and ends with the joy of her first letter written home by herself. A thorough and clear explanation of Annie’s methods, with large illustrations for children, and real excerpts from Annie Sullivan’s journal at the time. Picture book, ages 5-10.

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Helen Keller and the Big Storm, by Patricia Lakin, easy reader

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Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle, by Holly M. Barry,  picturebook

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Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller,  by Doreen Rappaport

This picture book is similar in style to Annie and Helen, but covers Helen’s whole life from babyhood to death. The large pictures make it attractive to children, and the text is very clear, interesting and informative. Quotes sprinkled throughout are from Helen’s journal this time, instead of Annie’s. Well-done. Picturebook, ages 5-10.

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The Private World of Tasha Tudor

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by Tasha Tudor and Richard Brown

Best known for her children’s artwork from half a century ago, this book gives a photographic look and biography into Tasha’s later life as an elderly lady in America who was convinced she should have lived 150 years ago.

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Her story and pictures will inspire adult readers who love the idea of being self-sufficient, working with pioneer-time tools, corgis, or true English-style cottage gardens.

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Ages 16 and up

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

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Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

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By Alice and Martin Provensen

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A funny (autobiographical?), peculiar, book that will convince you that each sheep, dog, chicken, horse, cat, etc. has its own character. The brief animal sketches of every animal friend on the farm will have animal loving kids giggling.

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Ages 5-10

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

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PIONEER GIRL: The Annotated Autobiography

Pioneer Girl

by Laura Ingalls Wilder
edited by Pamela Smith Hill

Yes, you read the title correctly! This is an autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like the Little House series that you have probably read, this book covers the same time period, beginning when she was very young and continuing till she was married. What happened to this manuscript Pioneer Girl, was that Laura couldn’t find a publisher for it and so her daughter Rose (who was a respected author and editor at the time) heavily edited the manuscript for Laura producing children’s version of Laura’s life, the Little House books.

In Pioneer Girl, you will meet many more characters (including their little brother Freddie), see many more places, and find out Laura was involved in many more events. Life was not quite as simple as the children’s version makes it out to be, and Pa and Ma turn out to be a little more human and less angelic, which is maybe good to know. (Sometimes the simplicity of times in the Little House books can make us think that human nature would be easier to deal with if we only had less stuff. But Pioneer Girl will help you see that human nature is the same whether lived out in cabins or mansions, then or now.)

I would love to sit down and read this big hard-cover book from start to end, but don’t have the time right now. Instead, at odd moments I pick it up and read a random page or two. Because of the different style, (less story-telling detail and more facts), this book will be of interest to adults and teens who really enjoyed the Little House books.

Ages: 13 and up

Recommended

Nonfiction

Hard-cover, 400 pages

Available from: local libraries and Amazon

Reviewer: Doreen

This is My Home, This is My School

Another lovely Jonathan Bean book….

Jonathan Bean once again writes from his own experience, continuing from the “Building Our House” book. He explains how his house is both his home, and his school. It is charming with a bit of humour… My one complaint would be that the illustrations are not as neat and, in my opinion, not as attractive as the previous two books I reviewed. But if I start getting analytical… it’s probably to convey the sometimes hectic lifestyle that comes with homeschooling 4 little kids–but I don’t speak from experience here ;). My other criticism is that I felt the story itself was a little lacking, with only one or two short sentences per page. BUT all in all, it is cute, and worth checking out for a couple weeks. You can get an excellent preview of the book on the Amazon page here.

Recommended

Reviewed by Esther

Available from HPL (it’s brand new!)

Building Our House/Big Snow

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

This is a lovely story about the process of building a house. Based on the author’s own childhood experience, he recounts the story from the perspective of his older sister. Great illustrations on each page, and enjoyable for kids and adults alike.

Recommended for ages 3+

Big Snow by Jonathan Bean

David is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first “big snow” of winter. Although his mother enlists him to help out with some chores, his curiosity repeatedly causes him to go check on the weather. Wonderful illustrations, with lots of lovely little details. This book will make your child eagerly anticipate the first snow of winter too.

Recommended for Ages 3+

Reviewed by: Esther

Available from HPL

*I recently discovered Jonathan Bean, and love everything I have seen so far. The stories and illustrations are nostalgic and timeless, and these are the two favourite books in the house currently.

Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk

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by Heather Kopp

In one sense, this story is specifically the story of grace in the life of a Christian wife and mother, author, and editor in a Christian publishing company. But in another sense, this story of grace is the story of all the redeemed.

If you have never struggled with the use of alcohol or known anyone who has, Heather’s story will open your eyes to the desperation, the bondage, the guilt, and the shaky road to recovery. The author has a way of leveling herself—and all of us—as the suburban, manicured alcholics mingle with the homeless in recovery. She tackles the hard questions too, as she tells the story of her life and faith, confronting the question of cause: are alcoholics a product of environment, biological make-up, or sin? Is the solution environmental, psychological, or solely spiritual?

Although this was not my favourite book to read, it was eye-opening and very relevant. We all may knowingly or unknowingly be in contact with someone for whom alcohol is a consuming temptation—someone for whom one drink only creates an insatiable thirst for another, and another, day after day.

Disclaimer: The author is very open, and two or three times briefly shares aspects of her life that readers may deem private.

This book may not be comfortable to read, but the powerful story of the spiritual grace and series of steps taken to overcome addiction will open many people’s eyes to the force of addiction in their own lives or in the lives of their loved ones—whatever the addiction may be…

Ages: Adult only

Genre: Memoir/Autobiography

205 pages, hardcover

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

Everything but the Horse

Everythign but

By Holly Hobbie

Oh, I just loved this book, for a number of reasons! It’s by Holly Hobbie…remember her? I had a calendar by her when I was young :). Well, the illustrations are really nice: fresh, perky, real, done in watercolour. Her depiction of city life at the beginning is so charming, and her depiction of country life is downright real and wonderful. I love the girlish passion the main character has for horses, and I loved the surprise ending! Now I have probably ruined it for you—if not for your kids–because it really isn’t an amazingly incredible story, but short, sweet, and wonderful. Enjoy.

Ages: 4-12

Picturebook

Autobiographical

Available from Hamilton Public Library

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

Jesus on Every Page

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by David Murray

If you believe with your mind that the Old Testament is salvation history but don’t see the connection when you read it, then this book will be an eye-opening wonder to you!

“With deceptive ease Dr. David Murray brings his readers on to the Road to Emmaus for a few hours of conversation about Jesus and the Old Testament. With an enviable grace and simplicity he teaches us how to read the Old Testament as Christians.” –Sinclair B. Ferguson, Redeemer Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Another commentator writes:

“The journey begins on the road to Emmaus, where Jesus delivers a sermon based on a big text: “Moses, all the Prophets, and all the Scriptures”. Murray provides autobiographical details on how he found Jesus in the Old Testament and he shows us the difference it made. In is search, he found that “[Jesus] wasn’t just here and there [in the Old Testament]–He was everywhere”. This discovery came not as a mere academic nuance, but a real, living, passionate reality that shines in the way Murray writes.”

Although Murray intended the book for preachers and seminary students, he was encouraged to simplify and summarize it for the average reader. This was the harder route, but we appreciate the result! Murray unravels his discovery in an orderly and systematic, (though not at all dry) way. His style is easy and light and he’s very careful to present the information in bite-sized pieces.

If you want to begin the new year with a simple, eye-opening, excellent book, then this is a good one!

Ages: 16 and up

Paperback

Theological

Available from: Reformed Book Services (Canada), Reformation Heritage Books (USA), Amazon

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

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By: Nabeel Qureshi

In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way. Providing an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi’s inner turmoil will challenge Christians and Muslims alike. Engaging and thought-provoking, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells a powerful story of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart—and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus.

“I have seldom seen such genuine intellect combined with passion to match … truly a ‘must-read’ book.” –Ravi Zacharias

Autobiography/Religious

Ages: 14+

*Recommended* ~ Seeing as I’ve engaged with Muslim co-workers, this book especially hit home and was an eye-opening, fascinating read

Review By: Irene