Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Giant-Slayer

by Iain Lawrence
Delacorte, 2009. 304 pgs. Juvenile Fiction

Shy, lonely, motherless Laurie Valentine has no friends to speak of until Dickie Espinosa moves in down the street and the two become inseparable, floating twigs down the stream in Rotary Park, playing with the train set in Dickie's basement--inseparable, that is, until Dickie contracts polio and winds up in an iron lung in the hospital. Laurie's father, a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, knows all about polio, including that it would be entirely safe for Laurie to visit Dickie, but he tells her to stay away just to be sure. She goes anyway. Two other children share the respirator room with Dickie and at his request, she tells them all a story which includes gnomes, dragons, gryphons, Khan the Hunter, and most of all, Collosso the Giant and Jimmy, the tiny little boy destined to slay him. As the story progresses it becomes clear that the children on the polio ward are not only hearing the story but participating in it and that their happiness and their very lives may depend on its outcome. In The Giant-Slayer Iain Lawrence has told a memorable story that not only accurately recreates the frightening years of the polio epidemic, but creates a richly-imagined fantasy landscape where courage, love, and the magic they create can bring remarkable things to pass.

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