The Giant-Slayer by Iain Lawrence

We have a lot of books at school with covers like this, and they check out, but I have to admit that it’s not my favorite sort of cover art. In this case, the cover art is also a little bit misleading, because this is not just a book about a small boy who grows up (or, in his case, stays the same size) to be a giant-slayer. It’s also about a group of children facing another sort of giant: polio.

After Laurie and Dickie play in the neighborhood creek, Dickie comes down with polio. When Laurie goes to visit him in the hospital, she begins to entertain him and the other polio patients by telling them a story about a boy who was destined to slay a giant. As the story unfolds with wishes and witches and gnomes and unicorns, each child finds himself or herself in it in some way. Will little Jimmy slay the giant? And will the polio vaccine that Laurie’s father is working on help slay the giant that has taken so much from her friends?

This is a wonderful, sweet story, and I loved the ways that the two stories combined to make something greater. Lawrence handled the polio information well, giving enough to keep readers interested without weighing down the story. And Laurie’s story is a charming mash-up of characters and legends just as an eleven-year-old might tell it. The only thing I didn’t like about the book turned out to be the cover. Here’s hoping my students are smarter than I am, and take a peek at what’s inside. (Recommended for grades 4-6.)

Random House provided me with a copy of this book to review.

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