New reviews of Helen Keller's
Best Friend Belle!
Discover Helen's miraculous journey while following her friendship with her four-legged companion in this picture book introduction to her remarkable life.
"Helen Keller's life is summarized for younger children in this attractively illustrated biography that uses Keller's love for dogs as a unifying thematic thread.
The story focuses on Keller's childhood, summarizing her early life in rural Alabama and the arrival in 1887 of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Keller's favorite dog, an Irish setter named Belle, is beside Keller as she learns from her teacher how to communicate with finger spelling. Teacher and student travel to Boston together, where Keller begins to learn how to speak, and she is able to call her dog to her when they return home to Alabama. This portion of the book is structured in a traditional picture-book format, using limited text and large-format illustrations that will work well for reading aloud to young children. The final few pages shift to more complex text describing additional dogs owned by Keller throughout her life as well as a summary of her college education, lecture tours and philanthropic work in her later years. This dual structure makes the book suitable both for young children and for older children looking for biographical information for school reports.
While Helen Keller's love of dogs isn't an integral part of her personal biography, it's an interesting hook to draw children into the story of this fascinating, inspirational woman.".
(Picture book/biography. 4-10)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr2 - "Keller was a lifelong dog lover. When an illness at a young age left her blind and deaf, and feeling alone and afraid, she found solace in the family pets. Belle, an Irish setter, became her closest companion as she struggled to communicate and discover the world around her through her lessons with Anne Sullivan. Examples of Sullivan's teachings are supported by individual placards representing each letter/sign in the words Helen learned. As her world opened up, the warm illustrations became suffused with light.
The complete alphabet in Braille is inserted in the middle of the narrative and displayed on the endpapers in sign language. This brief introduction to Keller's early life concludes with a note on her love of dogs and a brief biography of her later years. A pleasant companion to David A. Adler's A Picture Book of Helen Keller."
The Newtown Bee, Newtown, Connecticut
"Young readers and their parents familiar with Newtown illustrator Jennifer Thermes' style will be excited to hear that her lovely watercolors will grace the pages of a new picture book, Helen Keller's Best Friend Belle, by Holly M. Barry, to be released in September. Ms. Thermes has been the illustrator for other picture books based on history, and this book about the deaf, blind, and mute girl (who became a famous author and lecturer) and her faithful canine companion is another winner."
Books For Youth - Nonfiction - History
"Centering primarily on Helen Keller's early years, this picture-book biography provides an accessible introduction point: Helen's special friendship with her Irish setter Belle. Born in Alabama in 1880, Helen lost her sight and hearing following a childhood illness. Though unable to communicate, she found solace with her pet dogs, especially Belle, her companion when Helen meets teacher Anne Sullivan in 1887. This shows Belle with Helen during their lessons, as she learns finger spelling and then Braille. Helen and Anne then go to Boston, where Helen learns to speak; when they return home, Helen is able to call for Belle, and the two are happily reunited. A short, simple text and watercolor illustrations, accented with lively and poignant touches, convey Keller's experiences and joy as the world progressively opens up to her. Endnotes, in denser, lengthier prose, highlight aspects of Keller's adult life, accomplishments, and lifelong affection for dogs. Intriguing and inspiring, this will make readers want to learn more about Helen Keller. Endpapers illustrations depict the sign language alphabet.