Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Giant-Slayer by Iain Lawrence

Iain Lawrence writes books that are treasures for the literati. The Giant-Slayer is not a children’s book in the traditional sense, and yet certainly young readers will understand it. It is also not a contemporary adult novel, although its topic and themes have resonance in our frightening adult world. Published by Yearling in 2009, The Giant-Slayer and other Lawrence books are all fascinating books. The topic here is polio. Although polio (Poliomyelitis, an infectious viral disease that sometimes results in paralysis) is no longer prevalent, it still exists and there is no known cure. Lawrence does not approach polio with rose-colored filters. In the spring of 1955, Laurie Valentine learns that her friend Dickie Espinosa has polio and she decides to visit him in the nearby hospital. Dickie and two other children are inside an iron lung. The Iron lung treatment was once common, sealing the patient in an airtight container which assisted with lung function. Dickie is a fan of Fess Parker and his coonskin cap is hanging in view as a means to comfort him. The historical background and cultural references add another level of depth to the narrative. Laurie decides to tell Dickie and the other children stories to help pass their time. The ensuing narrative structure alternates between the fantasy world Laurie creates, which becomes incredibly real to the polio-stricken children, and the very harsh world where Laurie herself is at risk of contracting polio. The story is at times very sad, as you would expect, but Lawrence is such a fine writer that I’m confident most readers will be swept along by this tale. I have read many of Lawrence’s books and I treasure them all. Also recommended are Gemini Summer, The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, Ghost Boy and his “High Seas Trilogy” – The Wreckers, The Smugglers, and The Buccaneers. NOTE: To avoid confusion when searching for his books on Amazon, Lawrence’s first name is spelled with the double “i” – I. A. I. N. – rather than “Ian.” 

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