In 1955 kids were afraid that they might get a disease called polio. Polio is a virus that can cause paralysis. The paralysis can be so bad that it doesn’t just mean not being able to move the arms or the legs, it also means the body not being able to breath on its own. (Now, all kids get a vaccine for polio so you don’t have to worry about getting it anymore.)
Back in the 50s, if a kid couldn’t breath right because of polio, the kid had to live in an iron lung – a big machine the kid laid inside. This meant no standing up, no sitting, no playing. This was the time before much TV and definately no DVDs or video games or computers. Can you imagine? The kids in this story that live inside iron lungs can read a propped up book…but they have to wait for a nurse to come by to turn the pages.
The story begins when adventurous coonskin cap wearing, popgun toting Dickie moves in down the street and lonely Laurie finds in him a true kindred spirit. They play and pretend and explore all over their neighborhood all day and into the evenings. Laurie is devastated when Dickie is stricken with polio and confined to the hospital. Laurie’s Dad won’t let her visit because he’s afraid she could get polio too. Laurie obeys…for awhile. When she can’t stand it any longer Laurie sneaks into the hospital to visit Dickie and finds that he isn’t alone. Dickie, Chip and Carolyn all have polio and all three live in the hospital inside iron lungs.
During her visits, Laurie begins a story about Jimmy, a little boy destined to become a big hero fighting a giant. Each time Laurie returns to the hospital to visit she adds more to the story. A story about a little person fighting a great big giant is something these kids can relate to. Besting the giant requires all of Jimmy’s skills. He survives with the help of his friends.
The realistic part of the story about kids dealing with polio was really eye opening. It really is hard to imagine yourself living trapped in an iron long like that. The part of the book that is the story Laurie is telling about, the part about Jimmy the giant-slayer, was just fun to read. Laurie is a great storyteller and you can understand why the kids enjoyed her stories so much. Author: Iain Lawrence
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