[Monday Reading] A Celebration of Limitless Women: Wilma Rudolph and Helen Keller

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014. 

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Congratulations to Janie Fahey of Are We There Yet (for her review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell) and Michelle Glatt of I Push Books (for her review of Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman) for winning the book prize for Jan-Mar. Please send your mailing address and contact number to gatheringbooks (at) yahoo (dot) com so that Pansing Books can send your book prize.

Click here to sign up. If you have already signed up, here is the April-June linky where you can link up your reviews or updates from your reading list. We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away two copies of Julian Sedgwick’s Mysterium: The Palace of Memory to two lucky CORL participants from April-June. So link up your posts now!

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.

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Since this is the last day of Women’s Month, I figured now would be as good time as any to feature two beautiful picture book biographies about the spirit of indomitable women who did not allow their disabilities to define them.

IMG_2356Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman

Written by: Kathleen Krull  Illustration by: David Diaz
Published byHarcourt, Inc., 1996
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is the first time I learned about Wilma Rudolph who was born in a small town in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1940. Her birth was a cause for celebration among her nineteen older brothers and sisters. Try as I might, I find it difficult to wrap my head around the idea of having that many siblings. Ever since she was a baby, Wilma had always been sickly, weighing only a little over four pounds at birth. Yet despite this, she remains a sprightly young girl who preferred jumping and running to simply walking.

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Tragedy visited the Rudolph home when Wilma got very sick at age five and was stricken with polio. At the time, there was no vaccine for polio and there was no cure. Everyone thought that Wilma would not be able to walk again.

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Despite the heavy steel brace in her leg, Wilma vowed to herself that she would walk again. Instead of crying about her misfortune and moping at home, she did her leg exercises regardless of how much it hurt, until her leg started getting stronger, fed by the resilience of her spirit, strengthened by her resolve.

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Not only did she get to remove the hateful leg brace, Wilma eventually led her women’s basketball team to the Tennessee state championship, and earned herself a full athletic scholarship to Tennessee State University, becoming the first member of her family to attend college. How this woman transformed her pain and eventually won three gold medals at a single Olympics is not simply inspiring, it is the triumph of a woman’s courage and ability to fly against hateful shackles and life’s boundaries.

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen KellerIMG_2361

Written by: Doreen Rappaport Illustrated by: Matt Tavares
Published byDisney, Hyperion Books, 2012
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

There are so many biographies written about the life of Helen Keller and how her amazing teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her actualize her potentials. Doreen Rappaport’s version, however, managed to weave together her lyrical and stirring narrative with the actual words of Helen Keller herself – juxtaposing the disappointment and darkness of her disability with the joy and wonder of discovery.

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Matt Tavares’ realistic portraits that would often bleed into the next page are breathtaking. How he managed to capture that wonder of ‘water’ that allowed Helen to finally understand everything that her teacher is telling her, and awakened her soul to the possibilities of a life where she can finally share her thoughts – is simply beautiful.

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In just a few pages, both author and illustrator captured the essence of Helen’s travails and triumphs from childhood to old age, her disappointments and her steadfastness. I was able to catch a glimpse of her refreshing wit while she performed on stage, as well as marveled at her determined and willful spirit through her many advocacies.

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She simply would not allow a simple thing such as loss of sight to stop her from doing what she is meant to do in this life. Even the endpapers of this exquisite picturebook are veritable works of art:

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For teachers who wish to make use of this in the classroom, you’d be happy to note that there is a detailed author’s and illustrator’s note found at the back of the book, a list of important dates in Helen’s life, as well as comprehensive research sources and various references and links for those who would like to learn more about Helen’s life journeys.

Currently Reading…

I finished reading Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic last week as well as Margarita Engle’s The Lightning Dreamer. I am planning to feature said books for our current reading theme.

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This was my companion book when my family and I went on an overnight trip to Malacca. Finished reading it on the bus on the way to Equatorial Hotel, where we stayed. Such a satisfying read.

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I am currently reading Shine by Candy Gourlay for my adult book club (Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks).

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I also borrowed Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s, which is our book of the month for GatheringReaders, my book club for young readers. It is sometimes tough having one too many book clubs – not that I’m complaining of course. Bring on more books!

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Reading Challenge Update: 53, 54 (25)

*** Video ads other readers may find at the bottom of this post are NOT endorsed by GatheringBooks but are randomly included by WordPress to maintain their site. ***

10 Comments on [Monday Reading] A Celebration of Limitless Women: Wilma Rudolph and Helen Keller

  1. So many great books in the works… Shall look forward to hearing what you think about The Lightening Dreamer…

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  2. These looks interesting! Happy reading.

    Check out what we are reading this week.

    Leydy @OUaT & RCE

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  3. I really loved Wilma Unlimited. One of my favorite picture book biographies I’ve read this year, and my son & I are reading a lot of them. Your photos of the Helen Keller bio convinced me that I need this book. Have you read Joseph Lambert’s graphic novel, Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller? I really liked that title too–for older readers.

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  4. I had no idea that Wilma Rudolph had polio. What a triumph over that & to go on as she did. I’ll look for the book, Myra. I know the Helen Keller book-just gorgeous-like the others about her out recently. Hope you enjoy Counting By 7s. Happy Reading!

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  5. My daughter just did a report on Wilma Rudolph so I’m going to check that one out for her at the library, I think she’ll like it! I just got the Helen Keller book at the library too! Counting by 7s is on my TBR list, it sounds good if you listen to all the reviews! Have a great week!

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  6. bluestockingthinking // April 1, 2014 at 10:18 pm // Reply

    Matt Tavares’ illustrations are simply amazing, I hold him in similar regard to the amazing Brian Selznick!

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  7. I so love this Helen Keller book. I just found it so so stunning – the illustrations and all of the quotes. Gave me shivers.

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  8. I enjoyed The Lightning Dreamer. Pair that with The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan!

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