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Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  2,143 Ratings  ·  456 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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Hurt Go Happy by Ginny RorbyFlying to the Light by Elyse SalpeterFlying to the Fire by Elyse SalpeterMiss Spitfire by Sarah  MillerWonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Children & YA Novels About Deafness
4th out of 109 books — 98 voters
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Community Reviews

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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
Julie  Durnell
Aug 31, 2016 Julie Durnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great insight to how Annie struggled with teaching Helen and how her own childhood played into that. I did feel that the dialogue was at times too "modern" for that period of time. Although this is essentially a juvenile fiction book I didn't feel it was geared to just young people. 3.5 stars.
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
Jul 12, 2016 Kathryn rated it really liked it
I knew the story of Annie and Helen Keller but it was such a pleasure to read it from Annie's perspective. The thing that impressed me the most was how quickly she was able to make a breakthrough with 6 year old Helen. At the time it felt like forever and Annie was not even certain she was doing Helen any good until Helen identified and said water. It gives me goose bumps even to this day when I think about that.
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
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—
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.
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
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 Anne McLeod
Nov 03, 2007 Cynthia Anne 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
Lovely retelling of The Miracle Worker from Annie Sullivan's perspective. I was distressed by the amount of bullying/discipline in the book, but my nine year old thought nothing of it. "It's what Helen needed, Mama." Okay. Read in preparation for #obob2017
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
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
emma grace
Dec 10, 2011 emma grace 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.
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.
May 07, 2008 Jean rated it really liked it
This first person fictionalized account (written from Anne Sullivan's point of view) of the first five weeks of teaching Helen Keller the meaning of language is well researched and well written.
The Library Lady
Nov 08, 2007 The Library Lady rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-books
I've read books about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan since I was about 10 and there's only one word I can use to describe this book:
Oct 16, 2007 Heather rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: deaf, blind, language, communication
The first few months of Helen Keller's time with Annie Sullivan, told from Annie's point of view.
Apr 14, 2016 Barb rated it it was amazing
Really loved this book; inspiring and a reminder of how blessed I am.
Reading is my Escape
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
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hellen keller 1 1 Jan 18, 2016 09:16PM  
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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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