Follow My Leader

When I was younger, I almost never read a book just once. I had more time, less work, and less selection. So, I read my favorite books over and over again, and I enjoyed them the tenth time as much as I did the first.

One of the books that I read, almost to the point of wearing the cover right off the book, was Follow My Leader.

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Follow My Leader is the story of Jimmy, a teenage boy who was injured in an accident with a firecracker. The accident left him blind, and, to his way of thinking, helpless. For several months after the accident, he is reluctant to even try to learn to live with his frustrating new limits. Suddenly, everything he does is a battle, from eating to simply trying to walk across the room. Before the accident, he was a thriving student, a baseball player, and a popular kid on his block.

After it, he struggles to get out of bed.

That is, until he meets Leader, his German Shepherd guide dog.

As a child, this book opened my eyes to the struggles and frustrations of being blind, and to the amazing triumphs people without sight accomplish every day. The book’s author, James B. Garfield, also lost his sight as an adult. Jimmy’s experiences of adapting and overcoming his blindness mirror Garfield’s own, first in learning braille and in relearning how to feed and dress himself, then in bonding with his new guide dog. Leader gives Jimmy a new sense of freedom and independence, something he lost when the accident took his sight.

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The challenges that Jimmy works through—and ultimately overcomes—have a deep effect on his character, even to the point of his eventual reconciliation with the boy who caused his accident. This book was an incredibly moving story about overcoming obstacles and finding hope in a hopeless situation. The way Jimmy adapts to his new life—and thrives in it—inspired me so much when I was younger, and it continues to be one of my favorites today.

“When I met you at the bus you asked me if I had your dog,” Mr Weeks reminded him. “Now you’ve got it.”

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