The Giant-Slayer
The Giant-Slayer
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Annotation: When her eight-year-old neighbor is stricken with polio in 1955, eleven-year-old Laurie discovers that there is power in her imagination as she weaves a story during her visits with him and other patients confined to iron lung machines.
Catalog Number: #5417925
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Dell
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition Date: 2009
Pages: 304
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-440-23971-0
ISBN 13: 978-0-440-23971-0
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Despite the title, this compelling story-within-a-story is not about giant slayers, but about children with giant spirits. Eleven-year-old Laurie Valentine has a lonely life but an active imagination. When her one and only friend, Dickie, is diagnosed with polio in 1955, she visits the hospital to tell Dickie and other stricken children a magical story about Jimmy, a destined giant slayer. Besides Dickie, there is Chip, an orphaned farm boy, and Carolyn, a 14-year-old girl who has been inside an iron lung for eight years. The three are transformed by the story and begin to see themselves in Laurie's characters. When the unthinkable happens, Chip, Dickie, and Carolyn narrate the tale without Laurie, revealing truths about themselves. While the author flawlessly integrates Laurie's fantasy narration with the 1955 story, the cover art of a giant about to squash little Jimmy might throw readers off a bit. Still, this effectively shows how children face life-changing challenges with incredible determination.
Horn Book
Polio rages in 1955 and eleven-year-old Laurie Valentine's friend contracts the disease. Keeping him company, she sits by his iron lung and weaves a story about a giant-slayer. Other patients begin to appear in Laurie's tale, creating a lifeline for each of them in this well-crafted novel about illness, hope, and the power of stories.
Kirkus Reviews
The year is 1955, and 11-year-old Laurie Valentine is lonely. Her father is a fundraiser for polio prevention and is so paranoid about the disease that his daughter is terrified of daffodils—the harbinger of polio season. When Laurie's only friend in the world, Dickie Espinosa, contracts polio and ends up in an iron lung, she sneaks off to the hospital and begins to tell her tragically captive audience a fantastical story about a six-ton giant named Collosso and the boy who was born to slay him—populating her richly drawn world with greedy charlatans, Gypsies, great hunters, gnomes and the shamefully unmagical Swamp Witch who is "half woman, half baloney." The children's eager interruptions, predictions and interpretations—aptly peppered with '50s lingo and cultural references—all shape a fluid narrative that will break readers' hearts and then, impossibly, lift them back up. This profound, magical, dryly comical novel reminds readers of the power of story, but they will already be feeling it in their bones. Masterful. (author's note about the history of polio in North America, acknowledgments) (Historical fiction. 11 & up)
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

This memorable novel, a skillful combination of real life and fantasy, is by turns uplifting and saddening. Set in 1955 against the backdrop of the polio epidemic in the period just before Jonas Salk's vaccine, the story follows three “polios”—Dickie, Carolyn, and Chip—as their once-lithe bodies deteriorate in iron lungs in a polio ward. A bright spot comes when 11-year-old Laurie Valentine, a gifted storyteller and Dickie's best friend, regales them with tales of a boy's quest to slay a marauding giant with the help of a majestic unicorn hunter, an oxen driver, and Jessamine, the Swamp Witch. As Laurie concocts each installment, Dickie, Carolyn, Chip, and other kids from the ward begin to recognize themselves in the parable's heroic characters—their first glimmer of hope (and distraction from their illness) in years. Grave illnesses such as polio are a difficult topic, and Lawrence's (the Curse of the Jolly Stone trilogy) delicate intermingling of fantasy and reality brings poignancy to the material. Distinctive, emotionally honest characters and consistently engrossing prose make this book a standout. Ages 8–12. (Nov.)

Voice of Youth Advocates
In 1955, eleven-year-old Laurie Valentine lives with her widowed father, who works for a polio prevention foundation. The two endure lonely, frightened lives, where budding daffodils signify the beginning of polio season rather than spring. LaurieÆs new and only friend, Dickie Espinosa, contracts polio shortly after they meet. Against her fatherÆs wishes, Laurie visits Dickie and the other children in the hospital and begins to tell them a spell-binding tale of Collosso the giant, a greedy innkeeper, travelers, great hunters, a questionable swamp witch, trolls, gnomes, and charlatans. Lying paralyzed in their iron lungs, the children, each with a story of his own, are active listenersùinterrupting and predictingùcreating a community of humanity. LawrenceÆs masterful novel is crafted with folkloric hyperbole and dry humor, which imbues readers with the power of story to build community, entertain, create meaning, and heal. Along the way, Lawrence drops in occasional cultural references and dialogue, ôKeen!ö to keep the fantastical story grounded in the 1950s. This heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful story-within-a-story is seamless. An authorÆs note on the polio epidemic in North America is included.ùCynthia Grady.
Word Count: 72,740
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 11.0 / quiz: 134024 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.3 / points:18.0 / quiz:Q58979
Lexile: 700L

A girl’s imagination transports polio-afflicted kids into a fantastic world.

The spring of 1955 tests Laurie Valentine’s gifts as a storyteller. After her friend Dickie contracts polio and finds himself confined to an iron lung, Laurie visits him in the hospital. There she meets Carolyn and Chip, two other kids trapped inside the breathing machines. Laurie’s first impulse is to flee, but Dickie begs her to tell them a story. And so Laurie begins her tale of Collosso, a rampaging giant, and Jimmy, a tiny boy whose destiny is to become a slayer of giants.

As Laurie embellishes her tale with gnomes, unicorns, gryphons, and other fanciful creatures, Dickie comes to believe that he is a character in her story. Little by little Carolyn, Chip, and other kids who come to listen, recognize counterparts as well. Laurie’s tale is so powerful that when she’s prevented from continuing it, Dickie, Carolyn, and Chip take turns as narrators. Each helps bring the story of Collosso and Jimmy to an end—changing the lives of those in the polio ward in startling ways.

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