Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield

Follow My Leader coverJimmy Scouts, plays ball, and gets into trouble with his friends. Then one bit of mischief — a mishandled firecracker — results in an injury that blinds him permanently. The next few months are tough, as Jimmy figures out how to move around on his own, how to read braille, how to fit in with his friends again and, ultimately, how to forgive the friend responsible for his blindness. A significant portion of the book focuses on Jimmy’s relationship with his new guide dog, Leader, whose assistance adds considerably to Jimmy’s independence, and whose companionship helps Jimmy to move forward with life as it is now.

Follow My Leader was originally published in 1957, but was re-released by Puffin in 1994 and remains easily available. Though the language is a bit dated, dozens of reviews on Goodreads and Amazon show that I’m not the only one who loved this book as a child (I read it in the early 90s) and remembers it fondly — and in detail! — as an adult. A big part of the appeal is the author’s commitment to describing how Jimmy learns to adapt in such a way that readers learn right along with him. Kids can try to feel the cushion of air near walls and other barriers, practice spelling in braille, and use the clock face method to direct others. In the process, their imaginations are engaged in understanding a little bit of what it might be like to live without sight.

Read a review from the perspective of someone who raises future guide dogs, or an intriguing TV Tropes “review.”

Young readers who enjoy this book will find all kinds of resources online to help them continue their exploration of the topic of blindness, like this one: Braille Bug


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