Bryant follows an earlier biography for middle graders with this story, narrated by Louis, imagining life events from birth to age 15.
An accident in his father’s workshop damages Louis’ eye, and an ensuing infection that spreads to the other completely blinds him by age 5. “I sat by the window, training my ears to do what my eyes could not.” Braille’s family helps him adapt, crafting a wooden cane and tactile alphabet letters. “With Maman, I played dominoes, counting the dots with my fingertips.” Louis attends school, “listening and memorizing,” strongly motivated to read and write “on [his] own, like everyone else.” Louis, just 10, persuades his family to send him to the Royal School for the Blind in Paris after a local noblewoman secures his place. Louis endures harsh conditions there, eager to read the library’s promised special books. Their discovery proves disappointing. With sentences covering a half-page, whole books contain precious little. When a French army code is introduced to the students, its punched paper symbols are too complex for most. Louis both masters the code and alters it— brilliantly, at age 15—after years of painstaking work. Kulikov’s engrossing mixed-media illustrations interpose soft pastels with spreads of chalky blue line on ink-black pages, dramatically conveying Louis’ isolation and single-minded intensity.
An inspiring look at a child inventor whose drive and intelligence changed the world—for the blind and sighted alike. (Braille alphabet, French pronunciation guide, author’s note, Q-and-A, print and web resources) (Picture book. 6-9)