4 out of 4 stars
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Our Scary Spring: Our Polio Fright of 1955 by C. A. Hartnell is listed as historical fiction and is the first book of a four book series. Each book title features one of the seasons. In this first volume, the author portrays the polio threat that hung over the nation and how this fear seeped into the hearts and minds of the children who heard the news reports and saw evidence of the disease in the people around them.
Carol Ann lives in El Monte, California. Pete, her best friend, comes over frequently to play. They like playing with mean Mr. Chester’s beagle, Hey Pup, who regularly escapes under the fence to be with the children. Family and school activities occupy a great deal of their time.
A dark cloud hangs over their lives. The March of Dimes posters displayed in store windows remind them of Tim and Mr. Chester who have difficulty walking as a result of polio. The government plans to test a new polio vaccine in the grade schools. Deep fears arise when Carol Ann gets the chills, stiffness in her shoulders, and a high fever. Has the vaccine developed by Dr. Salk come too late for Carol Ann?
The author recreates the ambiance of the 1950s. Current television and radio programs, different models of cars, and the names of favorite movies and songs fill the pages of the book. Family activities and visiting neighbors knit the community together. Another highlight is the information about the development of the polio vaccine included in the prologue and complemented at the end of the story. The author personalizes the book with several family photos, a list of prices of everyday items in the 1950s, and a glossary of words that might confuse readers.
Children reading the book on their own might need an adult to explain the numerous references to songs, television programs, and cars that were popular in the 50s. A picture of a March of Dimes poster would be helpful. Readers could experience the hope for a cure that Carol Ann felt when she donated her dimes to the cause.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The story is well written and excellently edited. I only noticed three errors. This story is appropriate for children in the second to fourth grades, and parents and teachers would enjoy reading this book out loud to their children. The book mentions the testing of the polio vaccine on school children. This method of field trial, on more than 600,000 children in grades one through three, has been criticized, and these sections of the story might trigger adverse reactions in readers who oppose vaccinations.
Scary Spring: Our Polio Fright of 1955
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