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Light A Single Candle

(Cathy Wheeler #1)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  593 ratings  ·  75 reviews
When Cathy lost her sight at the age of 14, she faced a very different way of life, where her other senses had to take over the work of her eyes. Adjusting to blindness was often easier than handling the reactions of people. One friend who now avoided her her. Another smothered her with too much kindness. Then came the thrill of independence after completing a tough traini ...more
Mass Market, 217 pages
Published January 1st 1970 by Simon and Schuster (Pocket Books) (first published 1962)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  593 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Deborah Markus
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I'm catching up on my reviews this month if it kills me.

(Okay, no. I love Goodreads and I'm all about meeting my book challenge, but I think death is a little drastic.)

I hereby aver that I'm going to try to catch up on my reviews, as long as the tasks I skip in order to do so are nonessential, like housecleaning and fretting.

(Much better.)

Okay: I reread this old childhood favorite a couple of months ago as a brain-break. It stands the test of time well –
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So this is another really old YA, and it's a good one. It feels like a precursor of sorts to Izzy, Willy Nilly. Cathy is a teen with glaucoma, and the surgery that's supposed to save her vision doesn't work. She's a newly blind teenager, and she's an artist. There are so many reactions: the awful woman from the State School for the Blind, the neighbor who tells Cathy's mother to put Cathy in an institution, the friend who drops her like a hot potato...

Cathy decides to go to the state school so s
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my favorite book in 4th or 5th grade. I can't remember how many times I read it. Reading it again now.

Yes, I still like this book very much. It's not the same life-changing overwhelming love I remember from elementary school, but it's still a very good book.

Also, I don't remember crying when Cathy met Trudy or when they took that first solo trip around the block, but I did this time. It was a pleasure to watch Cathy adjust to her new life as well as begin the transformation from tomboy
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Speaking of disability novels, this book about a teenage girl who loses her sight was MY JAM in 8th grade. The author actually lost her sight in high school, so take that, haters! I own the sequel Gift Of Gold, in which Cathy the blind girl pursues a career in speech pathology. Maybe it's time to actually read it. ...more
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, re-reads, disability
This is an old favorite of 70's YA that I found for a quarter and decided to re-read. It stands up surprisingly well; dated in its environment, but not enormously in its attitude. I love when she goes to the guide dog training and meets the housewife and the college professor who are also blind and clearly independent even without having guide dogs yet.

It's also where I learned about the LOC services for the blind, which are happily still in existence, although also happily no longer provided s
This is a book directed at young adults. I had read it in the 1970's and enjoyed it, but needed to read it again to decide on my rating. When I first started it I realized it was well-written, but I was looking at it as a book for teens. As I got into the book, I began to agonize with Cathy through her experience at the school for the blind and through the stifling of her seeming friend. When we begin to feel for the main character, then we cross over into liking a book, I think. ...more
Teresa TL Bruce
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inspirational
I read this DECADES ago, but have thought of it many times since. This tells of the challenges a teenager faces as she loses her sight and struggles to adapt. It gave me a greater empathy for the blind, and a greater appreciation for my own sight.

Karlene Olesuk
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It helped me understand a bit about what blind people go through on a daily basis. This helped later in life when I actually produced a play written by blind author, Lynn Manning.
Mary Pagones
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I remember selecting this book from the school library as a child because of the dog on the cover. The story of a young woman who loses her sight stayed with me, decades afterward.

Cathy initially elects to go to a state school for the blind, and the awfulness of the food and insensitivity of the teachers are worthy of Jane Eyre, Little Princess, with a splash of Girl, Interrupted. This being an early 60s teen novel, the girls are all hilariously boy-crazy. Cathy be
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cathy Wheeler's hard struggle through blindness is absolutely inspirational. Her story does not ask for pity; we understand her realistic worries and growing-up distresses. Cathy is an intelligent girl on the brink of becoming a woman, and her childlike and playful attitude in the beginning contrasts with her growing relationships with different characters in the end. Through Cathy's journey, we feel the ache she feels at the loss of her former "normal" life and her uneasiness with her new life ...more
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read many times as a kid. First read as an adult--will it hold up?

And it did! My feelings were luke-warm for the first half of the book, and I almost couldn't remember why I loved it so much (well, other than the fact that I've always had a fascination with Tragedy or Big Illnesses or whatever).

But then I got to the part where Cathy decides to get a guide dog. And my love for this book came flooding back. Trudy is awesome! Joan is hysterical! And Steve is dreamy.

Ultimatley, very satisfying and
Oct 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring and "real" without being maudlin. I especially like the assumption-bashing portion at the boarding school for the blind. ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at a Bookfair in Manila. If I remembered correctly it was 2014, and boy, it’s already 2020. Sorry Beverly Butler for making you wait but today I can finally say I have read it, and it was my 11th book for this year’s reading challenge. I was very interested with this book mainly because of the cover as I am a dog person myself. I haven’t heard of this book ever, so I literally have no idea what to expect from this book.

As I flip through the pages, I am reminded of the pricks
Laura JC
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in 1967 at age 14 and wrote in my diary: "It is about a girl, 14, who becomes blind, goes to a blind school, doesn't like it, so goes to public high school with her guide dog, Trudy. It's a great story. And interesting." ...more
Amy Rae
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Read this whole thing today, mostly while I was scanning things, and I was truly delighted. I was drawn to the book for the fact that most children's and YA books from the mid-20th century featuring characters with disabilities were written by people without those disabilities; Light a Single Candle, on the other hand, was written by a woman who, like the main character, went blind as a teenager.

At fourteen, Cathy's sight is quickly disappearing to glaucoma, and an operation leaves her fully bli
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After being plagued with poor eyesight for years, fourteen year old Cathy Wheeler is excited to hear that there is a surgery which may be able to correct her problem. But after the bandages are removed, Cathy is left sightless. Adjusting to high school is hard enough without trying to adjust to her new condition. But after a semester at the blind school, she opts to get a seeing eye dog which promises to return to her the independence she misses so much. With the help of Trudy, Cathy returns to ...more
As I've finally got my hands on the sequel, a reread of Light a Single Candle was in order. Cathy is 14 and loses her sight to glaucoma. She had surgery to save what sight she had (would have been able to read print with a magnifying glass), and woke with no sight at all. I remember being fascinated by her story, and it was engrossing this time as well. Because she'd had sight, her brain still made pictures of her surroundings, so much so that she would sometimes forget she wasn't really seeing. ...more
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Always has been one of my favorites, and I have read the sequel many times as well (Gift of Gold). This book was and is still inspirational to me. And I have always taken to heart the advice "to light a single candle." Life presents challenges to all of us, and to remember to approach them one step at a time is a feat. Cathy's struggles were always very real to me, though I'm not blind. Beverly Butler is a very evocative writer, as well. ...more
Elizabeth Gibbs
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star
The eyes of young Cathy are going blind. She attends a school for the blind where the people and place are not so nice, and then goes to a training where she gets her dog Trudy. Going back to public school proves to be a challenge but Cathy meets the challenge. I have a hard time reading books like this because it's scary, but it is very well-written and very positive. There is little if any dwelling on losing her sight. There is mostly dwelling on how to overcome obstacles.
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The concept of slowly losing one's sight at a young age is daunting. Butler handles the traumatic story with grace and humor, bringing in the absolute awesomeness of the guide dog services. The training with the dog, the integration of the dog into the real world, and the ease, or lack thereof, with which the duo returns to normal life is all vividly portrayed. Be sure to also read the sequel (name escapes me), as well as Butler's autobiographical tale of life with her own guide dogs. ...more
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book stayed with me for a very long time when I read it in my youth. It's about a 14 year old girl who loses her sight and how she deals with it. If I ever come across a copy, I will snatch it up and reread it.

Feb 2010 - I just reread it after finding a copy at and I still love it!
Aug 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: favorites
Dated, but great! Set in the early 60's, this is the semi-autobiographical story of a young teenage girl who loses her sight to glaucoma. As she learns to cope with her sudden blindness, she mainstreams into her local high school, and eventually her parents purchase a guide dog for her. I have read this many times, and it still rings true, despite the generation gap. ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of my favorite books growing up and I reread it every time I come across it (I have a special place for all my childhood books so they won't be as subjected to the "elements"... and my shoddy housecleaning techniques) which is about every three years. I have to say, I still like it just as much each and every time I read it! ...more
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is completely heartbreaking when Cathy loses her sight and her whole life changes. I became absorbed the minute I started. Because it is an older book it took me completely by surprise with the way it grabs the reader by making them travel a the world through the eyes of a blind woman. Overall one of the most impacting books I have ever read.
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a teenager and remember what a great book it was. Now that my sons are visually impaired, I would like to read it again and get a feel for what they are going through. I just saw a review for "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" and thought of this book. I am going to see if my library has both of them along with "Lisa, Bright and Dark". ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many others have commented, I read and re-read this book numerous times in my youth. Very much gave me an insight to those who are blind and to this day, I am aware of those who are blind and ready to offer assistance - my friends feel bad because they are not even noticing the individual when I do. Thanks, Ms. Butler for making adding that little facet to my character.
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another deeply moving book that felt true to me as a child. It's the story of a 14 year old girl who loses her sight and how she learns to adjust to her new world. The author is blind and writes very engagingly of the real struggles she faces. ...more
I don't remember how long it's been since I read this, probably sometime last year. It's about a girl who loses her eye sight. I thought it was a touching story. I honestly can't remember specifics about it right now but it's a good short book. ...more
Linda Quarne
Old favorite that I came across when "weeding" at the library where I volunteer. Outdated in technology and in the field of treatment and education for those who have lost their sight, but a familar "old friend" that was a quick re-read that flashed me back to my childhood... ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s, ya
What a refreshing change from Follow My Leader, which I finished a few days ago. This is a much fuller very real character. Good story, real issues and real solutions. This author lost her sight and I think her insights really helped make this book real. I liked it a lot.
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Also known as
Beverly K. Olsen
Was married to Theodore Victor Olsen

Beverly was a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a long time resident of Rhinelander. Beverly had planned to be an artist, but an impending blindness impelled her to learn typing in order to rejoin her high school class. For practice, she began typing remembered stories which led to her inventing stories.
In 1954, she graduated cu

Other books in the series

Cathy Wheeler (2 books)
  • Gift of Gold

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