Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Louise Braille

Louise Braille

Madeline Donaldson
Illustrator:  Tad Butler 
Nonfiction
For ages 7 to 9
Lerner, 2007   ISBN: 978-0822576082

Louis Braille was the son of a harness maker and he was born in a small village outside Paris in January of 1809. Louis was a very curious boy and he loved to watch his father working in his workshop. One day, when he was only three years old, Louis got onto his father’s work bench and by accident stuck one of the sharp tools that he found there into one of his eyes. Infection from his injured eye spread to his healthy one and Louis was completely blind in both eyes by the time he was four.

Louis’ father greatly valued education and he really wanted to find a way to teach his bright and restless little boy how to read and write, like the other children in the family. Luckily Father Jacques Palluy, a local priest, was willing to become Louis’ teacher. He read to Louis and since Louis had a good memory, the boy learned a good deal. Then the Father asked the local teacher if Louis could attend school. Blind children did not usually go to school but the teacher agreed to allow Louis to try.

Louis did everything that he could in the class but there came a time when he could no longer participate because the authorities were focusing on reading and writing, the two things Louis just could not do. Thankfully a local landowner was willing to help Louis. He wrote to a school for the blind in Paris and Louis was given a full scholarship to the school.

Thus it was that Louis was able to go to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. It was not easy for Louis to leave his family but he wanted to learn and this was the only way. So, when he was only ten Louis went to Paris. In spite of the harsh conditions at the school he learned how to play musical instruments and did very well in his studies because he had such a good memory. There were books to read as well. These books were made using embossed letters on a page and they were highly unsatisfactory. Louis was very disappointed that something better had not been devised for the blind.

Someone came to demonstrate a method of writing which the blind might use and asked the students at the school to test it. Louis saw its potential but he also saw its flaws. Something better was needed for the blind.

Being clever and inventive Louis began to work on an improved writing system for the blind. His method involved using raised dots to create letters, numbers, and punctuation. Thus a complete book could be written using his system. Louis used a slate and stylus to create the raised dots and with a little practice the blind could read the dots very quickly with their fingertips.

This new system would end up changing the world for the blind in the years to come, giving them the freedom to read and write with ease.

This well written book will show young readers how incredibly brave and creative Louis Braille was. Overcoming his own blindness and considerable ill health, Louis gave the blind a wonderful gift. The author not only tells her readers about Louis and his life but she also provides them with background information which is pertinent to his story. A note at the back of the book explains how the blind today use a special braille keyboard to use a computer and to send email.

This is one of the titles in the “History Maker Bios” series.

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