Have you ever heard me mention how I love when I receive a book unexpectedly and it becomes a new favorite? Over a year ago, Momma was at a homeschool book sale and found Small Steps by Peg Kehret. Since my late grandfather had polio and used a brace the rest of his life as a result, she thought the subject matter would help us to better understand the disease, without the dry quality of a medical website. I didn't put much faith in the book, but one afternoon, seeing it on the end table in our family room, I picked it up out of curiosity. And from that point on, I could barely put the slim volume down.
Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio
By Peg Kehret
*Summary taken from the back of the book
Acclaimed author Peg Kehret has written the true story of the year when she was twelve and stricken with polio. At first paralyzed and terrified, she fought her way to recovery, aided by doctors and therapists, a loving family, supportive roommates fighting their own battles with the disease, and plenty of grit and luck. With the humor and suspense that are her trademarks, Peg Kehret vividly recreates a year of heartbreak and triumph.
My Thoughts: As mentioned previously, I couldn't put this down. From a simple fainting incident in school to learning she is diagnosed with three different types of polio, Peg Kehret certainly knows how to write a riveting beginning. I particularly liked her writing style: though Small Steps was written many years after Peg had overcome polio, she managed to capture that fresh innocence and spirit of a twelve-year-old girl. It certainly covers a difficult and scary subject matter, but Peg writes in a charming and engaging manner that can turn even the saddest parts lighthearted.
The respective backstories of Shirley, Renee, Alice, and Dorothy, the girls who become Peg's roommates, can range from sad to heartbreaking. At first, Peg doesn't understand why Alice is so cynical and bitter . . . until the girl informs her that she's been at the Sheltering Arms for ten years. Why? Because when her parents realized that their daughter was never going to get any better, they decided they didn't want her anymore.
Lest you think this whole book is sad, there are several very heartwarming moments. One of my favorite parts is when Peg's parents come every Sunday and bring the girls all sorts of treats, which Peg keeps under her bed. One night, after singing rather loudly for an hour, the girls are all hungry, so Peg gets into her wheelchair, uses a backscratcher to fish some cookies out from under her bed, and wheels around to the other girls, passing out the food. There are many more comical scenes of this nature (including when Peg's doctor paints her toenails with red nail polish), but you'll simply have to read the book to hear more about them. *wink*
Pros: Besides the fact that Small Steps is very well written and engaging, it also makes the reader increasingly aware of how blessed he is. Reading about each respective girl's excitement over finally being able to do things that we wouldn't think twice about — standing on her own, sitting up for a longer period of time — is extremely humbling. I can complain sometimes about not being as flexible a dancer as I should wish; Small Steps made me realize what a gift it is to be able to dance at all.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 10+
A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"Within an hour, my temperature dropped. That chocolate milkshake may have saved my life." — Small Steps, chapter 3