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.

hand in hand.jpg

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.

annie and helen.jpg

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.

helen storm.jpg

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

helen and belle.jpg

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

helen's big world.jpg

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.

Advertisements

Evangeline

91ms7u2brw6l

 

Evangeline written by Helene Boudreau

Evangeline is a wonderful story based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s fictionalized Evangeline. The story follows the life of Evangeline and Gabriel as they grow up in Acadia. Right after Evangeline and Gabriel’s marriage, the British arrive and the Acadians are forced to abandon their homes and villages.  Gabriel and Evangeline as well as many others are separated from their families. The rest of the book is about Evangeline’s search for Gabriel.

At the back of the book there is a brief history on the Acadians.

Picturebook

Age: 4 and up

Recommended

Reviewed by Meagan

Available from the public libraries

The Nutcracker

the nutcracker.jpg

By Susan Jeffers

If the magical Nutcracker fairytale reads like a dream, that’s probably because it is! The picturebook story tells the dream that follows the receiving of a Nutcracker as a Christmas gift.

nutrcracker 4

Is this book for you? Well, if the music of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker thrills your heart, or you just can’t resist the twirling snowflakes in a land of lollipops; if a look at a real Victorian Christmas makes you smile or you want to at least familiarize your kids with The Nutcracker Story, then, yes, this is a picturebook for you.

nutcracker 2.jpg

Author/illustrator Susan Jeffers wanted to retell the story of the Nutcracker in a version short enough for young listeners and to include pieces of the ballet in her illustrations, which she does. The artwork is truly Victorian from outside architecture to house décor to clothing fashion, and the ballerinas in the Land of Sweets are presented prettily, suiting a little girl’s dream of what a flower fairy should look like.

nutcracker 3.jpg

Ages 4-7

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

Thee, Hannah!

thee hannah

By Marguerite de Angeli

For children (and sometimes we as adults!) who struggle against being different from others; who want to conform with the current culture; who admire its dress and long for its beauties…this is a beautiful book.

thee hannah 2

There are so many aspects to this book. On one level, it is the tale of a little girl who longs to be like her next-door neighbour, but woven through the story-line is the Quaker work with the Underground Railroad. The author also does an excellent job of painting the historical time period and the reader can actually see the various peddlers weaving their daily paths through the city and through Hannah’s life. On a spiritual level, Hannah is struggling with temptation and giving in to it. The tempter, as per Quaker custom, is referred to as “Old Spotty,” throughout.

thee hannah 3

I will not give the ending away, but the book winds down and we start to think, is this it? And only on the very last page, does the story come full-circle and its various strands are satisfactorily bound together.

Picture/Chapterbook

Recommended!!

Ages 4-12

Reviewer: Doreen

 

In Flanders Fields

in-flanders

by Norman Jorgensen

This beautifully-illustrated picturebook provides a rather unsoftened look at war. Intended for older kids, it has somewhat graphic pictures in ink (some dead bodies, a skull, rats) which give a look at real life in trenches. The story follows an act of mercy and a brief glimpse of hope is portrayed by the bright bird and the Christmas carol with which it ends.

in-flanders-3

Picturebook

Ages 8 and up

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

in-flanders-2

 

Proud as a Peacock Brave as a Lion

 

proud-as-a-peacock

By Jane Barclay

“Much has been written about war and remembrance, but very little of it has been for young children. As questions come from a young grandchild, his grandpa talks about how, as a very young man, he was as proud as a peacock in uniform, busy as a beaver on his Atlantic crossing, and brave as a lion charging into battle. Soon, the old man’s room is filled with an imaginary menagerie as the child thinks about different aspects of wartime. But as he pins medals on his grandpa’s blazer and receives his own red poppy in return, the mood becomes more somber.

proud-1
“Outside, the crowd gathered for the veterans’ parade grows as quiet as a mouse, while men and women — old and young — march past in the rain. A trumpet plays and Grandpa lays a wreath in memory of his lost friend. Just then, the child imagines an elephant in the mist. “Elephants never forget,” he whispers to his grandpa. “Then let’s be elephants,” says the old man, as he wipes water from his eyes and takes his grandson’s hand.”

From the Amazon book description

proud-3

Recommended

Ages 5 and up

Picturebook: Remembrance Day or Veterans Day

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

proud-2

Misty of Chincoteague

misty

By Marguerite Henry

Here is an adventure for horse-loving children that will introduce you to a wild horse band on two real islands off the coast of North America. The story focuses on the efforts of a brother and sister to get a pony of their own, and speculates a little on the history and legend of how the first wild ponies got to North America. The children’s success in the story may seem a little too-good-to-be-true, but the author assures her readers at the beginning that though the order of the events in the book may have been shuffled, the events did truly happen!

Bonus: There are many more “horse” books written by this author. It is too bad that public libraries don’t seem to carry many of others.

Recommended for horse-adventure lovers

Chapter Book or Unabridged Audio Book

Available from public libraries

Ages 6-12

Reviewer: Doreen

The First Reformers

The First Reformers by Alie Vogelaar

20161018_104637

With Reformation Day coming up next week I was looking for something that would present historical facts and keep four young children interested; not an easy feat. This book is actually the third of four novels written by Vogelaar that bring history alive by presenting it in story form.

Starting with Peter Waldo and the Waldenses the story follows a young French boy as he and his family flee to Switzerland where they continue to worship God in quiet freedom until even the Alps prove themselves too near the pope’s hateful rule. As time goes by the ambushes begin to lessen, as across the lands in England, John Wycliffe is busily translating the Bible from Latin into English. With another threat to his power the pope begins to focus his offences on the country nearer to him. But the ‘disease’ of the Reformation continues to spread and soon in Bohemia a pastor by the name of John Huss also begins to teach the people in their native tongue.  The story ends with the horrible martyrdom of John Huss by his enemies. Not a nice way to end a story perhaps, but as the great, church father Tertullian once said, ” the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Recommended

Historical Fiction

Ages 5 and up

Available from Early Foundation Publishers

Reviewer: Meagan

Mary’s First Thanksgiving: An Inspirational Story of Gratefulness

marys-first

By Kathy-jo Wargin

A beautiful thanksgiving picture book to enjoy! On one level, this is just another account of the Pilgrim’s first hard years here in America, and their first Thanksgiving in the 1600’s. But perhaps less known is the five corn kernels used at Thanksgiving to remember the five things the Pilgrim’s were thankful for: five things kids can still be thankful for today!

Given just as much page space in this picturebook, is the story of Mary, an Irish immigrant girl to America, in the 1800’s, who is resentful of her family’s poverty. The author skillfully weaves the two stories together, and Mary’s parents both encourage a thankful spirit for the care God shows throughout the book, and encourage her to see what God has given. As for the paintings–or should I say portraits, for  their life-likeness–they are really beautiful!

Ages 5 and up

Historical Fiction

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

Black Beauty

black-beauty

By Anna Sewell

Somewhere in the back of my mind I imagined this was a book for 13 year old girls/horse lovers. But I was very much mistaken. This unabridged audio version makes Black Beauty a book to be enjoyed by young and old! Such wisdom comes from an old horse’s mouth in this book, (I think of practical lessons learned from the pony Merryweather and his matter-of-fact handling of some rambunctious boys). But the wisdom is mixed with plenty of adventure, nearly adventure per chapter.

As for the book’s theme, treating animals with kindness is emphasized throughout the whole book, and the author makes it clear that all cruelty to other creatures stems from the devil himself who delights in cruelty, whereas love for one’s neighbours and other creatures comes from a love for God. Another interesting theme is the intolerance for ignorance. “I didn’t know any better,” is not a valid excuse according to this author, for great damage is done by the wicked and the ignorant–perhaps even more by the ignorant than the wicked, she suggests. She also speaks strongly for keeping Sunday as a day of rest and worship, and speaks out against tardiness, running late, and wasting time! There is also a voice against bondage to alcohol, and the oppression of the weak. There is commentary on politics and those who jump on the bandwagon, as well as slavery to fashion—“Is it not better to lead a good fashion than follow a bad one?” the author has a character ask. Food for thought 🙂

And for the true horse-lovers, this book is a real treat. Readers (or listeners)  will come away with a greater respect for the horse as well as some indepth horse handling knowledge.

This unabridged audio version is very well-read by Simon Vance who puts on the different voices with ease!

Ages 6-adult

Audio: 6 hours long

Available from: public libraries

Recommended!

Reviewer: Doreen