At the age of three, Louis Braille was blinded in an accident. At the age of 10, he was sent to study at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. Learning was a painstaking process, with lessons in "embossing" — tracing the outlines of raised impressions with a finger — proving frustrating. Braille was determined to find a better way, and from the age of 12, he worked tirelessly to develop a simple, finger-felt code for the alphabet. Despite technical and bureaucratic setbacks, he eventually succeeded in proving his system to his school and, eventually, to the world.
Russell Freedman, acclaimed author of the Newbery Medal-winning Lincoln: A Photobiography and the Newbery Honor Book Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery, among other award-winning biographies, is a favorite of students and teachers alike for his ability to bring historical figures vividly to life. As he tells the story of the young Louis Braille, he uses evocative details to explain what daily life experiences would have been like for a blind child in 19th-century Paris, listening to "the rumble of wheels and clicking of hooves as carriages rolled past on the cobblestone pavement" or for the sound of "flags flapping in the breeze along the Champs-Elysees." Readers will share Braille's frustration with the isolation that he and other blind people faced before they had a means of written communication. Supporting Freedman's accessible text are soft, shaded pencil illustrations by Kate Kessler as well as diagrams of Braille's alphabet and of the slate and stylus that the blind of the time used to write.