Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Special Saturday Trifecta: Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson and Raul Colon


Mr. Colby Sharp and I are celebrating the first trifecta of the 2012-2013 school year with Annie and Helen. It is an outstanding picture book biography that tells the story of two inspiring women: Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.

I think young readers will enjoy Deborah Hopkinson's lyrical language and Raul Colon's memorable watercolor illustrations. Teachers will appreciate that the back matter includes an author's note, photographs of Annie and Helen, suggestions for further reading, and Helen's first letter home.

Please head over to Mr. Sharp's blog to read his review of Annie and Helen. Don't forget to come back here to read my interview with award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson. OK?

Mr. Schu: It seems as though every generation is interested in learning more about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. When did you first become interested in their lives?

Deborah Hopkinson: I think you’re absolutely correct. I remember being fascinated by Helen and her accomplishments, and so were my two kids. But it wasn’t until I saw a news article in 2008 about a re-discovered rare photograph of Annie and Helen with her doll that I began to imagine a picture book about them. It was then that I realized that Annie had lived in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, the town I lived in until I was four years old.

Annie and Helen

Mr. Schu: If you could sit down with Annie Sullivan and ask her one question, what would you ask?

Deborah Hopkinson: I think I would ask her if, in that spring of 1887 when she first set out to take a job teaching a little girl, if she could ever have imagined where it would take her, and that it would earn her a place in history.

Annie and Helen

Mr. Schu: What is one thing that surprised you while researching Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller?

Deborah Hopkinson: While I certainly knew that Annie Sullivan was a dedicated teacher, I was amazed to realize how young she was -- just 21 in the spring of 1887 – and how innovative her teaching methods were for the time। Something else surprised me too: the rapid progress Helen made. When Annie arrived in March, Helen didn’t understand how to use language. By July, she had written a simple letter!


Annie and Helen

Mr. Schu: My friend Donna and I visited Ivy Green a year ago. Touring Helen’s house, walking around her property, and seeing the water pump was deeply moving. Did you do any of your research at Ivy Green?

Deborah Hopkinson: I wish that I could have. Because I have a full time job in addition to writing, I don’t get to do as much on-site research as I would like. I would love to visit there someday.

Mr. Schu: What do you hope young readers learn from reading Annie and Helen?

Deborah Hopkinson: I think one of the things literature helps us do is become more empathetic. I hope that by learning more about Helen, young readers feel more compassionate to people who struggle to learn, whatever their obstacles may be.

Mr. Schu: Reading is...

one of the best things about being a human being!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about…

Deborah Hopkinson: My new books! Next year I will have two new books. Knit Your Bit, A Story of World War I, which was inspired by the Central Park Knitting Bee of 1918, comes out in Spring 2013.

Then next fall, my middle grade novel, The Great Trouble, A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel, will be out. It takes place in 1854 during a terrible outbreak of cholera in London. I hope readers will find out more about my books by visiting my website. Thank you!


"Helen was like a small, wild bird, throwing herself against the bars of a dark and silent cage."

"Annie spelled into Helen's palm all day long. Like someone on a windy peak trying to kindle a fire for warmth, Annie kept hoping for a spark to catch."

"Annie made the world their classroom."




I am giving away one copy of Annie and Helen.

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from September 1 to 11:59 PM on September 5.

2. You must be at least 13.

3. Please pay it forward.



The third part of today's trifecta will post tomorrow. Please visit Nerdybookclub.com to
read Deborah's post.


September 3rd: Bakers and Astronauts

September 4th: Two Writing Teachers

September 5th: Cracking the Cover

September 6th: Teach Mentor Texts

September 7th: Nonfiction Detectives

September 8th: Booking Mama

September 9th: Children’s Book Review

September 10th: Random Acts of Reading

September 11th: 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast




1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the new book release, Deborah!

    Such fascinating subjects for a biography; I'm astounded at the progress they made and in Helen's success in life, despite having no exposure to language for so many of those important early years.

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