Jean Howes’ story turned into new children’s book

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  • Author Ellen Kelly and Jean Howes talk about the book

    Author Ellen Kelly and Jean Howes talk about the book "Through My Eyes" ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

Likely when you were smaller and heard your mother yell ‘Stop throwing stones, you’re going to take someone’s eye out with that thing’, you assumed she was exaggerating.

A book by Ellen Kelly proves otherwise. It’s based on the true story of how local entertainer Jean Howes lost her sight.

‘Through My Eyes’ aims to teach young people the dangers of throwing things and share Mrs Howes’ message of hope.

Ms Kelly said: “I hope that children will get the fact it’s dangerous to throw anything stones, rocks, toys or whatever. Just don’t throw things because you could damage someone for life.

“It’s also for individuals, human beings, to know that no disability can stop you from doing anything.

“You can still live your life very normally like Jean did and you can carry on and still enjoy life.

“Jean has been married and had a son and did normal things that teenage girls will do. That shows she saw the world through her own eyes and accomplished the same things as everyone else.”

Mrs Howes was nine when she was involved in the accident that changed her life. It was the last day of school before the summer holiday.

She was on her way back home after playing at a friend’s house, when she came across a group of boys throwing stones.

“I went behind the gate so they didn’t hit me but someone threw one more and hit me right in my eye,” Mrs Howes explained. “My friend took me home and my mother took me to the doctor.

“There was so much blood all over me and everything.”

Though some of the details are left out of the book to keep it child-friendly, Mrs Howes explained she felt sick after the accident and had to be put on bed rest for two months.

“I was weak and my eyes were hurting and they got people to come in and look at me.

“I was almost blind [in one eye] from the beginning, but then I started to feel better and I got out of bed.”

She eventually went back to school at Mount Saint Agnes, able to see “perfectly out of the other eye” to read her books.

However a month later she developed ‘sympathetic eye’. Brought on by trauma to one eye, the disorder leads to inflammation and blindness.

That November she went to a hospital in the United States where the eye injured by the rock throwing was removed.

By age 11 she had lost all sight in her second eye as well.

Despite being blind, Mrs Howes has gone on to accomplish many impressive feats.

As a teenager she was able to roller skate with friends, swim, go to dances and other activities; she also sings, plays the accordion and has performed with three country bands.

Ms Kelly said she considered Mrs Howes “one of Bermuda’s unsung heroes” and was inspired after hearing her message to students a number of times during her long teaching career.

Mrs Howes’ niece Carol Marshall, then gave Ms Kelly the push she needed to start the project.

She interviewed Mrs Howes over a few months; it took her two years to complete the book.

The story has been illustrated by Al Seymour and includes a CD of Mrs Howes’ rendition of ‘This Land Is Your Land. This Land Is My Land’.

The book’s release comes at the end of Mrs Howes’ tour of schools due to problems with her legs and the loss of her last guide dog.

“I’m glad children will be able to hear the lesson again. [Being blind] hasn’t hurt my life so much. I have done pretty good, but I don’t want another child to go blind like me,” Mrs Howes said.

‘Through My Eyes’ will be available at Brown & Co and Music Box in Hamilton and Robertson’s Drugstore in St George’s, for $20.

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Published Nov 7, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 7, 2012 at 8:36 am)

Jean Howes’ story turned into new children’s book

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