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Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,043 Ratings  ·  437 Reviews
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 mat ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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4th out of 98 books — 94 voters
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Feb 21, 2016 Manybooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is interested in Helen Keller's story
Helen Keller's story has always fascinated me, and I have seen most of the movie versions of William Gibson's play The Miracle Worker more than once. Sarah Miller's Miss Spitfire basically tells the same story as portrayed in the former (how Annie Sullivan is able to open Helen Keller's sightless and soundless world to language, to communication and personal interaction), but it is a biographical novel told from Annie Sullivan's perspective, in her voice.

For a mostly non-fiction, biographical a
Lisa Vegan
Jul 07, 2011 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers interested in Helen Keller, historical fiction, the blind-deaf, teaching
Recommended to Lisa by: Robin
This book almost got a place on my favorites shelf.

A huge thank you to Goodreads’ friend Gundula for rescuing this book from the morass of my bloated to-read shelf and inspiring me to read it with her review and her various comments about it.

It hooked me in right from the start.

I have always been fascinated by the lives of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Here, I really loved Annie’s first person voice in this novel, as a twenty year old sent to teach six-year-old Helen Keller, at times reminis
Jubilation Lee
I'll admit, friends, I almost didn't bother reading this book. Because even though my sole knowledge of Helen Keller comes from a couple of quality biographies I read as a kid, a partial viewing of The Miracle Worker, and several off-color jokes, I sort of felt like I knew everything already.


I mean, there's Helen, stricken blind and deaf as a toddler. Allowed to run wild. Desperate parents call for Annie Sullivan to teach their daughter. Cue screams, fights, etc., until one fateful day Ann
Aug 30, 2007 Betsy rated it really liked it
Authors that try to tackle any aspect of Helen Keller's life in a children's literary format are simultaneously blessed and cursed. On the one hand, talk about God's gift to authors. The emotional ups and downs of Helen's tale, the (dare I say) hope of her life, I mean she's a great historical character. Loads more interesting to a nine-year-old than your average everyday biographical figures. So there's that. On the other hand, none of this is a secret. As a result, my library's Helen Keller se ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Becky rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Miller, Sarah. 2007. Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller.

I don't quite remember when I first saw the movie The Miracle Worker, but I do remember it making a great impact on me. I remember being fascinated with finger spelling, particularly the famous w-a-t-e-r and d-o-l-l. I do know that at some point afterwards, I learned the alphabet. It's something I still know to this day, though I don't place too much confidence on my being able to remember "x" or "z" or "q" on demand. But there is somethi
Aug 22, 2007 Erin rated it it was amazing
This book is the story of Helen Keller's teacher, Annie Sullivan, as she struggles to teach a girl who can neither hear, see, nor speak. She displays incredible strength and determination as she sacrifices herself completely for Helen. Almost everyone knows this story, but hearing it from the teacher's point of view is a really unique insight. This delightful debut novel will keep you rooting for teacher and student right up until its triumphant ending.

"In my heart I know what's right for Helen
Dec 24, 2009 Laurel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I've been fascinated by Helen Keller (and her relationship with her teacher) since I was a little girl. Her story, no matter how you look at it, is a remarkable one.

Sarah Miller's wonderfully written debut is a fictionalized account of Anne Sullivan's first several weeks (told from her perspective) as Helen Keller's teacher. Miller based her writing in part on actual letters Anne wrote at the time -- excerpts of which she quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

The journey from their introducti
Abby Johnson
Sep 20, 2007 Abby Johnson rated it it was amazing
A fictionalized memoir of Annie Sullivan, the woman who taught Helen Keller language, this book was completely engrossing to me. It starts when Annie Sullivan first arrives at the Kellers' home. She has flashbacks to her own horrible childhood, which she endured in several terrible orphanages. Annie has been hired to teach six-year-old Helen Keller language. When she arrives at the Keller home, she finds a feisty, intelligent little savage. Helen is totally wild because her parents feel too guil ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I've been fascinated with the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan ever since I was little and first read about them. This novel is based on their first month together, when Helen first learned to communicate with fingerspelled words. I think Sarah Miller has captured Annie's frustrations and emotions just right. Even though I knew the story, and knew what would happen, it was still suspenseful, and I couldn't put it down.

Miller certainly did plenty of research in preparation for writing th
Jun 12, 2007 Sammy rated it liked it
Shelves: c-the-okay
I think the only things that makes this different from the Miracle Worker is that it's a book, it sheds a little more light on Annie Sullivan's past, and it's told in first person from her perspective. Other than that it's just, really, the book form of Miracle Worker.

Putting aside the fact that the book is geared towards younger people, it's pretty good writing, especially this being Miller's first novel. But while the story of Helen Keller is fascinating, I have to wonder why we should read th
Nadia Lotfy
Dec 14, 2015 Nadia Lotfy rated it liked it
This book is about a woman named Sarah that has to got to a place to teach a young spoiled girl, that girl isn't just young and spoiled but she doesn't know how to hear or see so it is a challenge to teach her. i like this book because it makes you think a lot about how thankful you should be that you are not deaf and blind. i recommend this book to people who like yo read things that re a little bit of fiction and a little bit of nonfiction.
Ginny Messina
Oct 06, 2008 Ginny Messina rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I’ve been fascinated by the lives of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan ever since elementary school when a local woman brought a program to my school that used dolls to tell the stories of famous American women. (I think it may have been part of this Dolls of Democracy program:

Having read so much about both of these women, I didn’t know if this book would add anything of interest to the story for me, especially since it covers the exact same time period—
Tara Chevrestt
This is a novel about Annie Sullivan and told from her POV, the woman who taught Helen Keller how to communicate. Being deaf, myself, I was eager to read this. However, I was disappointed...

Here's why:
The entire novel is a young Helen and she is like an unruly monkey being trained. She's a very unattractive character and though I have no doubt she was really like that before she could communicate (I mean imagine being deaf and blind and not know words.) I thought it was a bit much at times. Anni
Rachel Kim
May 31, 2012 Rachel Kim rated it really liked it
In 1904, Helen Keller became the first deaf and blind person to earn a college degree. In a time where women were rarely educated, and the disabled were shunned, Helen Keller wrote books and articles, and campaigned tirelessly for the blind. I am sure you have all heard of Helen Keller and her remarkable achievements.

Behind her success was a half blind orphan named Annie Sullivan, known to Helen as "Teacher." Annie, nicknamed "Miss Spitfire" as a child, had the daunting task of teaching Helen.
Shruti S
Dec 12, 2012 Shruti S rated it really liked it
I recently finished reading "Miss.Spitfire" by Sarah Miller. Nicknamed "Miss Spitfire" Annie Sullivan, a half blind orphan is destined to do the impossible, teach Helen Keller, a blind and deaf child. As wild, obnoxious and spoiled as Helen is, it is amazing to see how persistent and firm Annie is to make the real Helen come out of her world of darkness. This book is definitely character driven and has lots of voice.

Whenever I try to teach or help my little sister, it is hard because she either
Aug 22, 2007 Little rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all ages
Teachers strive to inspire their students to do their best, to expand their horizons, and to challenge themselves. Annie Sullivan's life was one challenge after another, and her first teaching charge was no exception. Helen Keller was blind, deaf, and completely wild when Annie first came into her life. Little did either of them know then that they would have a breakthrough within weeks of Annie's arrival, and that they would remain friends for the rest of Annie's life.

Cynthia McLeod
Nov 03, 2007 Cynthia McLeod rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I have always been fascinated by the story of Helen Keller, but even more by her teacher Annie Sullivan. One of my books on a long ago Scholastic Book order back in elementary school was Helen Keller's Teacher. I read about Annie Sullivan's horrendous childhood, years of which were spent at the almshouse Tewksbury in Massachusetts. There her beloved brother Jimmy died of tuberculosis, leaving her alone, angry, and blinded by glaucoma. Miraculously, she found her way to an educat ...more
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
It is quite powerful: Annie Sullivan's story has been one of the most powerful human stories after all -- Miller adds a little more to its power when she imagined Annie's selfish hunger at that human connection which she so lacked as a child and young woman before she met Helen. The story of the young Annie and her family is woven in quite seamlessly and effectively to the "Miracle Worker" plot line. It's also unusual that this is a book for fairly young readers told from a first person adult po ...more
Linda Lipko
Sep 19, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This is well written and absorbing. Ann Sullivan entered Helen Keller's life when she was 20 and Helen was six. Blind, deaf Helen was an exceedingly pampered, spoiled brat, locked in her own world of confusion. Her parents showed pity and allowed Helen to have free reign to punch, push, eat food like a pig and throw horrendous temper tantrums throughout the entire day.

All this changed when Ann Sullivan accepted the challenge of teaching Helen. Using very harsh, stern methods Ann gradually was ab
Sep 25, 2015 Piyali rated it really liked it
I cringed at the mode of punishment meted out to Helen by Annie Sullivan as she tried to connect the words to their meanings in Helen's mind but it was magical to read when she first made the connection with a word and what it stood for.
Aug 23, 2007 Leisl rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007_reads
I really enjoyed the way the book was written from Annie's perspective. However, I was hoping that the story would go on beyond the story of Helen figuring out the meaning of words. I was always disappointed in The Miracle Worker because it didn't go beyond the "miracle moment". I read a biography when I was eight that my mom had when she was young (and Helen wasn't even dead yet, when that one was written) that went through Helen's life up to the time that the book was written. Maybe I should w ...more
Tina Dalton
I liked this book because it really made me think about what it must have been like for Helen Keller to be trapped in her mind, without any words to even formulate her thoughts. The author does an excellent job of capturing the power of words.

I was a bit disappointed because it didn't offer anything new as far as the story of "The Miracle Worker" goes. It follows almost the exact time line from start to finish. I'd hoped it would go past the water pump revelation, or include more details. Not so
Annie Shi
Oct 05, 2010 Annie Shi rated it it was amazing
Unlike most books that tell of Helen Keller's difficulties, this book emphasizes the obstacles that Annie Sullivan faced every step of the way. It brought to light the hardships that were overcome to teach a deaf-blind child the miracle of language and focused on the problems rather than the outcome. Even though you already know the inevitable result, Miller keeps your attention with constant seemingly impossible complications to surmount. This book really allows you to become close to the feeli ...more
Josie Wallin
Miss Spitfire, by Sarah Miller, is about the story of Helen Keller from the teachers perspective. This book addresses the many challenges that Annie Sullivan, the teacher, faces. Annie is a persistent young lady, who is very determined for her ways. In the beginning, Annie comes out with a lot of confidence, but it soon dissipates. She feels like she just wants to melt away from the world because she thinks that it’s nearly impossible to work with a blind, deaf, and dumb child. However, Annie s ...more
Feb 06, 2014 Deepa rated it really liked it
In Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller, central theme is that when one is faced with a task that may seem impossible they have to think outside the box to accomplish it. The story takes place in Alabama in a small town called Ivy Green, during 1887. The story is written in the first person and told in the perspective of Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s mentor and long life companion. Miss. Sullivan was hired by the Keller family to teach their daughter, Helen, who was blind, deaf, and mute. Due to Helen’ ...more
Nov 13, 2015 Trish rated it liked it
Annie Sullivan's Story
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.
-- from the book jacket

I really enjoyed re
"Ticket, please.

Annie Sullivan is sent on a mission to teach a deaf and blind girl named Helen Keller to communicate. Annie finds herself at her wit's end with a child who does not know how to interact with the world around her, but through her patience and ingenuity she leaves a legacy that we still talk about today.

Its been awhile since I have read anything about Helen Keller, and I was interested in how a fictionalized account of her first interactions with Anne Sullivan would play out. I
Dec 10, 2011 Violet rated it really liked it
This is a 3.75 , by the way. (They need to fix the rating system so that you can do that...)

Really intersting to hear the story from Annie Sullivan's point of view. The journey that she and Helen went on is very inspiring. The best part of the book was when Helen finally realized what words meant, and what Annie was trying to teach her. Very cool. :)
Jan 14, 2009 Marisa rated it really liked it
This is the Helen Keller story told from her teacher's point of view. It was excellent and so amazing to learn more of their relationship which lasted throughout their lives. Also check out the movie "The Miracle Worker" it also very closely follows this book and is great for kids too if you've never seen it.
Apr 26, 2009 Robin rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of 2007. You think you already know the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, right? We’ve all seen "The Miracle Worker." But to read a novel told from Annie’s point of view-–it’s just so moving, and so illuminating. A wonderful novel.
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My friends would tell you I'm quirky, slightly obsessive, and rather irreverent. I majored in linguistics, minored in Russian, and was the undisputed fingerspelling champ in my ASL classes. I can also read Braille -- very, VERY slowly. A few of the things I like best: opera, sushi, daffodils, Walt Disney World, Eleanor Roosevelt, Chuao dark chocolate, I Love Lucy, Jeopardy, the Titanic, Bette Davi ...more
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