Welcome to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS. At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about any sport that interests them. We look forward to the day when the words, "You play like a girl," is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Retro Review: The Running Dream by Wedelin Van Draanen

My sophomore year of high school, (the first year of high school as I had gone to a 7-9 middle school), I joined the rowing team. It was all land work outs all the time. Running, circuits, and rowing machines brought me closer to spring break when we'd first get on the water. The day we were let out for break, I was so excited that I hopped down the last five stairs in school and did something to my leg. Later that afternoon I found out I'd fractured my ankle. I wouldn't row that year at all. It was a palpable sense of loss but not near as great as Jessica's loss in the 2012 Schneider Award Winning book, THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin Van Draanen.

A school bus accident leaves sixteen-year old runner, Jessica a below the knee amputee with running little more than a reoccurring dream. But dream she does. Jessica is young and she has the drive of an athlete plus the support of family and friends. She heals quickly and learns to walk to again. Along her journey, her goals shift and change and the obstacles are many--a math teacher who won't give an inch, financial and legal issues, other runners who see her as distraction and a huge lack of self-esteem that is constantly challenged by the pipe she now has for a leg. "It's distrubing how fast weeds take root in my garden of worthiness. They're so hard to pull. And grow back so easily" (312).

The book is structured in five parts: Finish Line, Headwind, Straightaway, Adjusting the Blocks, Starting Line that chronicle Jessica's journey. Van Draanen's love for running is apparent and the reader is drawn in not only by the Jessica's love for the sport but for her loss and longing. The medical aspects of Jessica's amputation, her recovery, and prosthetic appointments are vivid and engaging. The reader feels as if she's in capable and trustworthy hands without having the text read like a medical journal.

After her absence, Jessica is saddled with a huge homework load which introduces the reader to Rosa, a math whiz with Cerebral Palsy who has a wheelchair. Throughout the story, Rosa's more existential and philosophical view of life gets Jessica and the reader thinking. Who is visible and invisible in our world? How can people be convinced to see the person behind the condition or disability? Where are the starting and finish lines in our life and how does one lead to another?

Cerebral Palsy Day is celebrated in the US on March 25th (two days ago) but World CP Day takes place the first Wednesday in October. This year (2016) that's Wednesday, October 5th.

This book was the 2012 Schneider Family Book Award winner which "honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." In addition to being an award-winning author, Wendelin Van Draanen is also the founder of the Exercise the Right to Read program to promote fitness and literacy in schools.

If you haven't read it already, check out THE RUNNING DREAM!