Unknown.jpegThis book is called, ‘MISS SPITFIRE’, written by Sarah Miller. It has been named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. When I first picked out this book, I didn’t realise that it was written in the perspective of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s fiery teacher. Many people don’t think about Annie Sullivan when they mention Helen Keller. Helen was a child prodigy, but so, indeed, was Annie. 


When Annie nervously departs to Ivy Green, Helen’s house, her story unravels very quickly. Meeting Helen proves to be a disastrous event, as Helen seems to have as much of a temper as Annie did. The two vicious ladies struggle to work together, despite Annie’s desperate and occasionally harsh attempts. It is only when Miss Spitfire (Annie) persuades Helen’s reluctant and pitiful parents to let the two be alone in another house does discipline begin to form. Annie makes Helen independant and obedient, and somehow forms an unbreakable love for the fiery Helen. I was impressed by Annie Sullivan’s desperate attempt to better Helen Keller’s plight. 


I could relate to Annie Sullivan and her temper, as I used to have one as ferocious. Helen’s anger was borne simply out of frustration and the inability to express her feelings. I could also relate to Annie’s struggle to teach Helen. It opened a huge door in my mind, about empathy and understanding not only the outcome- but the struggle Annie and Helen went through to become what they were. Helen may have had an intriguing story, but Annie Sullivan shared that story, if not partially owning it.


My favourite moment in the book is the way it concludes with the famous ‘water pump’ incident where Helen’s big breakthrough happens and her life transforms. Annie tries to teach her words at the water pump, when something clicks within Helen and instead of her usual indolent and fiery disposition, she becomes eager to learn words, name objects and can’t let go of her teacher’s hand!  From then on Helen’s ability to communicate effectively & her willingness to learn unleashes her.


Sarah Miller’s delicate style of writing, just flowing on and on in great depth and emotion about the story really touched me. I think it’s remarkable to have captured and jammed together all of Annie’s feelings- from anxiety, to uncontrollable wrath and then affection. This story took place quite sometime ago, and even though Sarah Miller is writing in today’s date, I still can sense that it took place in an older time period. There were also flashbacks to Annie’s childhood days, weaved into the story so gracefully that I often didn’t realise the flashbacks. 


I love that this book is called, ‘Reaching Helen Keller’ and not, ‘Teaching Helen Keller’. It was what intrigued me when I first noticed this book. But its apt because the book is about Annie’s journey of how she got across to stubborn Helen and actually unlocked her to finally express herself freely.


Overall, I would call this an excellent, worthy and fabulous read and really recommend this book to young adult readers and middle schoolers. A must read before you finish secondary school in any case. I devoured this book with pleasure, reading until my eyes stung. If you are deciding what to read next, this is a definite go-to book.