Tag Archive: Helen Keller


Review by C.J. Bunce

Whenever you read a Colin Solter book, you know what you’re going to get.  Salter, author of 100 Speeches that Changed the World and the co-author of 100 Books that Changed the World, is bringing his next thought-provoking ideas to your bookstore next month, 100 Letters that Changed the World.  As with his prior entries in the series, Solter doesn’t really assemble the 100 best, 100 favorite, or even 100 most important items in each category, but he brings to light primary references from history.  In doing this he reminds readers as much as things change, they also manage to stay the same.  Having read his earlier books, I find I’m as intrigued to learn what he has selected from the obscure as much as more expected finds.

In truth, not all of these letters changed the world, if anyone, as might be the case with a few suicide notes from popular culture across the decades.  It also gives a bit more weight to letters that exist in their original form today, and letters that might fetch big dollars on the collector’s market.  The most intriguing of the letters is a note from Abigail Adams to husband John Adams from 1776.  Her letter decidedly did not change the world, because had Adams paid heed to her plea, women would have been included along with “all men” in the Declaration of Independence.  But it is a fascinating secret from history nonetheless.  Also fascinating is the final, jovial letter from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his wife Constanze, including references to his peer Antonio Salieri.

More obvious, important entries in 100 Letters that Changed the World include the telegram informing FDR about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s open letter from a Birmingham jail, Nelson Mandela’s letters from prison, and words of King Henry VIII’s affections to Anne Boleyn, which indeed would forever alter the course of history in Europe, Christopher Columbus’s first report back to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1493, as well as Galileo mentioning his telescope whereby he first saw the moons of Jupiter and noted its military advantage for Italian naval efforts in 1610.  And from the historic, but perhaps not so critical to human progress is the last telegram message from the RMS Titanic, a telegram from the Wright Brothers to their father of their successful first airplane flight, and Pliny the Younger’s letter to Tacitus describing the horrific deaths from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79.

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i-am-jane-goodall

Do you remember your first book?  Was it Grover and the Monster at the End of This Book?  Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore’s Birthday?  A Child’s Garden of Verses?  De Angeli’s Book of Nursery & Mother Goose Rhymes?  The Pokey Little Puppy?  Milton the Early Riser?  Horton Hears a Who?  The Little Golden Book of Manners?  The Five Chinese Brothers?  The Ugly Duckling?  Curious George Goes to the Hospital?  I remember all of these (all recommended), but am not sure which was my very first.  A Child’s Garden of Verses was my first exposure to 3D via its magical lenticular cover.  I’ve read them all years later and they have much in common–compassion and respect for others and yourself is a common theme of them all.

Throughout the past year Brad Meltzer, noted fiction and non-fiction author and television personality (and DC Comics writer for the Identity Crisis and Green Arrow series) joined former Marvel Comics artist Christopher Eliopoulos to produce the Ordinary People Change the World series of books for young readers from Dial/Penguin/Random House.  Each of these could–or should–be your child, your nephew, niece, grandchild, or other young friend’s first book.  The latest, released this month, feature Dr. Jane Goodall and President George Washington.  As the holidays get closer, make a note of I Am Jane Goodall.   It’s a storybook written in an autobiographical style incorporating actual quotes from the noted scientist, environmentalist, and animal rights advocate, and belongs at the top of our recommendation list for today’s young readers.

jane-goodall-with-book

Meltzer and Dr. Goodall have gone back to young Goodall’s decisions and thinking as a child to relate to readers her influences, desires, and dreams, and how she went about carving a path to change the world.  Eliopoulos draws Dr. Goodall as an adorable girl throughout.  We meet her first stuffed chimp named Jubilee, and witness her thinking about moving to Africa to study chimpanzees at a young age, then actually saving the money to go to Kenya at 23 to visit the animals, meet Dr. Louis Leakey and eventually work for him, then to go on and live among the animals and learn more about communication and primates than anyone before her.  The story is sweet, inspiring, and beautifully written and drawn.

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