1. I am Helen Keller by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos.
Helen Keller started life as an ordinary child who loved her dog and was learning to say some simple words when, at the age of nineteen months, she caught a virus which left her blind and deaf. Her family could not communicate with her and didn't know how to teach her how to behave and interact with others until they hired her a teacher named Annie Sullivan who patiently taught Helen to communicate by tracing the shapes of letters on her hand. Helen grew to be the first deaf and blind person to earn a degree at a university and went on to write twelve books and visit thirty-four countries.
This picture book packs a lot of information into just a few pages, though it does so in language that makes it accessible to young readers, accompanied by simple cartoon illustrations (with a couple of little Easter eggs hidden for keen-eyed Marvel fans). It tells the story of Helen's life and achievements as well as talking about disability. It invites children to try to imagine what it must be like to be blind and deaf, and how frustrating it must be being unable to communicate with others. It also includes a page with the Braille alphabet in raised dots on the page, so the reader can try out tracing the alphabet or his or her own name. It includes quotes from the real Helen, as well as a few actual photographs of her in the back.
I am Helen Keller is a wholesome book about a woman who, with the help of a patient and a dedicated teacher, worked hard and achieved great things. It is part of the Ordinary People Change The World series for children, which also includes books about Lucille Ball, Jim Henson, Albert Einstein and many other historical figures. The series is suitable for children aged about 6 and up.
2. Lucy Maud Montgomery- by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, Anuska Allepuz (Little People, Big Dreams).
Lucy Maud Montgomery, who preferred to be called Maud (without the "e"), was a little girl when her mother died and her father left her to be raised by her grandparents on Prince Edward Island in Canada. She was an imaginative child who dreamed of becoming a writer, though her grandparents thought reading and writing were a waste of time, especially for a girl. She persisted, writing stories and poems in secret, and was eventually published. Her novel, Anne of Green Gables, and the other books in the Anne series, are now famous and much loved all over the world.
This book is part of the Little People, Big Dreams series for children about the lives of various inspirational figures, such as Jane Goodall, Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel. It uses a combination of sweet illustrations and simple text to tell Maud's story, and there is a timeline in the back with photographs of Lucy Maud Montgomery at different stages of her life. It would be suitable for ages 6 and up.
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Quarto Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Published: October 2, 2018.
3. Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson
Ada's Ideas is the story of Ada Lovelace, the world's first first computer programmer, who was the daughter of the infamous poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Milbanke, a wealthy woman who was also a skilled mathemetician. Her mother left Byron when Ada was just one month old and young encouraged her to study mathematics, among other subjects, in order to keep her "steady and serious" unlike her father. Ada became friends with Charles Babbage, and worked on his "analytical engine", becoming the world's first computer programmer.
The illustrations in this book are striking and imaginative, using a collage of different coloured and textured paper. The text tells an interesting story, and makes a great introduction for children to this fascinating figure. Like I am Helen Keller and Lucy Maud Montgomery, it's the story of a girl who was told she couldn't, or shouldn't, try and be the thing she dreamed of being, who chased and achieved her dream anyway. The book also points out that creativity is as important in technology, science and mathematics as it is in poetry.
Ada's Ideas is a beautifully illustrated, well written picture book about a very interesting historical figure. It would suit children from around the age of 9 and up.