One is immediately struck by the way this book is structured. Helen’s story is described on even numbered pages, whilst facing pages provide effective, complementary pictures and notes. This informative approach is superior to the modern fetish for scattering ‘factoids’ about pages in an effort to create a more visually appealing ‘text’.
A taste of Helen’s character is conveyed through such margin quotations as, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Helen’s story is itself sufficiently captivating, but is explained rather too factually. Young readers would have benefited from more emotive descriptions of Helen’s wonderful discovery of words, her success with Braille, her acceptance into and graduation from college, all while blind and deaf! After all, the book is subtitled A Determined Life with good reason. Her life should be related as brilliant achievement after brilliant achievement.
Nonetheless, this biography is so well done that it should be on every child’s bookshelf. We suggest it be placed right beside a copy of The Miracle Worker (1962) starring Patty Duke as Helen Keller. The book and the movie will complement one another. Where A Determined Life is an exemplary documentation, The Miracle Worker presents the difficulty of a locked in mind discovering itself.. It shows how language not only enables thought, it enables humanity.
The Miracle Worker opens with toddler Helen recovering from a severe fever: