22 June 2010

Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller

"I have half a mind to tell him I have no training and I'd rather be selling books door-to-door, or even washing dishes at Mrs. D's Kitchen in Boston, thank you very much."

Annie Sullivan was little more than a half-blind orphan with a fiery tongue when she arrived at Ivy Green in 1887. Desperate for work, she'd taken on a seemingly impossible job -- teaching a child who was deaf, blind, and as ferocious as any wild animal. But Helen Keller needed more than a teacher. She needed someone daring enough to work a miracle. And if anyone was a match for Helen, it was the girl they used to call Miss Spitfire.

For Annie, reaching Helen's mind meant losing teeth as raging fists flew. It meant standing up when everyone else had given up. It meant shedding tears at the frustrations and at the triumphs. By telling this inspiring story from Annie Sullivan's point of view, Sarah Miller's debut novel brings an amazing figure to sharp new life. Annie's past, her brazen determination, and her connection to the girl who would call her Teacher have never been clearer.
This was a great book.  Sarah Miller gives a deep background of Annie Sullivan, bringing her to life as I've never seen in her fight to discipline and teach Helen Keller.  Also brought to life is the deaf-blind girl herself.  Sarah Miller gives a fire to Helen's spirit, featuring her tenacity and cunning despite her inflictions. 

I could see why it was called a "drama" on the blurb on the front cover:
"Miss Spitfire is a high drama about how language unlocks the world." - Richard Peck, author of the Newbery Medal winner A Year Down Yonder.
Sarah Miller reveals a stunning connection between Teacher and Student.  She also unveils deep, stunningly human feelings and emotions in Annie.

I loved reading how Annie brought Helen through the whole process of teaching her and getting her to understand.  It seemed almost as if she would never succeed but then, the miracle.  It really makes me want to see The Miracle Worker, which Sarah Miller recommends. (Specifically, the 1962 version, starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke.)

Such an inspiring story!  And so funny!  Annie's spirit shines bright right from the very beginning.  I give this story a very enthusiastic "A".  It's a quick read that will leave you smiling.  I read it in under a day.


Book Info:

  • pages - hardcover, 240
  • published - July 2007
  • publisher - Atheneum
  • genre - historical fiction
  • rating - 5/5
  • Summer Reading 2010 - #6