I read this entire book on the plane on my way to the NCTE conference. I really enjoyed the conference and I especially enjoyed spending time with my brother and his partner. But reading this book was far and away the best part of the whole vacation. I'm a big time book lover and for a book to completely rock my soul, it has to speak directly to me and my personal experiences in a very intimate kinda way. I was so stunned and blown away by this book that I don't have any solid sense of how kids might respond to it. Can my students possibly relate to something that I loved as much as I loved this? I'm worried they can't, but I liked it way too much make reasonable predictions.
This is the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, told strictly from Annie's point of view. Episode after episode full of wonderful "teacher" moments were what captivated and enthralled me. I remember reading the play "The Miracle Worker" in seventh grade. I didn't like it much, although I can still remember reading the "water" scene--when Helen suddenly connects the hand-spelled word W-A-T-E-R to the liquid pouring out of a water pump. Miss Spitfire ends just after that epiphany--and everything that comes before made this same scene much more astonishing and powerful.
What makes a book really fantastic, for me, as a reader? When it takes the notes, melodies, and rhythms of my spirit and creates a magnificent symphony. I'm no Miracle Worker, but this book reminded me what I know about teaching; that it is hard, joyful, frustrating, passion-filled, mistake-ridden, impossibly tender, frequently painful, very discouraging, and incredibly nourishing work. That it demands almost everything and gives back even more. Thank you, Sarah Miller, for such an excellent book.
For a much calmer, but still quite positive review, visit Fuse 8, here.