Premise/plot: Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller is a nonfiction graphic novel; it is a biography of Helen Keller's teacher, Annie Sullivan. The first scene in the book is a wordless sequence that continues for several pages: Helen Keller trying to eat off her teacher's plate and being made to eat off her own plate and to eat with a spoon. It's a contest of wills between the two, for sure. The first third of the book--at least--this struggle continues. Annie trying to have a break through with Helen Keller. How do you teach the concept of language, of ideas, of words to someone who can neither hear or see? If there is someone as stubborn as Helen, it is Annie. Together these two will have an impact on the world. The water scene occurs about thirty pages into this one. Instead of using this as the end of the story, Lambert uses this as the beginning of the story. The focus in this graphic novel is truly the EDUCATION of Helen Keller. I found this to be FASCINATING. The climax of this one surrounds the 'trial' of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Sullivan has been writing to her teacher/mentor. She shared a story that Helen Keller wrote, The Frost King. He was so impressed with this story that he tried to get it published in a magazine, only to be humiliated when he was told that the story was 'plagiarized.' Keller and Sullivan stand 'trial' before him and the school board. Were either guilty of knowingly copying a story and passing it off as original?
My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. It wasn't perfect. I would have loved it if the panels of this graphic novel had been larger, and if the font size had been larger. It was hard on the eyes. Especially since you're reading CURSIVE in a tiny print. Cursive and finger spelling. I didn't struggle with the finger spelling. (As a kid, I was so fascinated by The Miracle Worker that I learned the manual alphabet. And that's something I kept in my memory with the exception of x and z.) I read in the author's note that the cursive bits were taken from Sullivan's actual letters. So this isn't a flimsy biography, but a serious one.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews