Van Draanen, Wendelin. 2011. THE RUNNING DREAM. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375966675 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-10]
In a tragic bus accident, Jessica’s leg is crushed resulting in an amputation below the knee. She may be able to walk again with a prosthetic, but this is a devastating blow to the sixteen-year-old track star: “Running aired out my soul. It made me feel alive. And now? I’m stuck in this bed, knowing I’ll never run again.” As Jessica tries to step back into life, she is befriended by Rosa, a classmate with cerebral palsy she never noticed before. Through the help of her new friend, family, teammates, and coach, Jessica realizes there may be hope for her after all.
Van Draanen capably tells Jessica’s inspiring story, realistically capturing the struggles, self-pity, setbacks, and triumphs one would surely experience recovering from such a life-altering injury. Van Draanen skillfully weaves the detailed recuperation-– clearly well-researched-– with typical events from the life of a teen enabling readers both to relate to Jessica and to gain a deeper understanding of an amputee’s experience. The novel is ultimately hopeful as Jessica’s determination and resilience allow her to find a new, reimagined path. The development of her character and the special friendship with Rosa emphasize the importance of looking past a disability to the heart of a person.
Readers can watch online videos of real-life amputee runners using the Flex-Foot, such as Paralympics Gold Medalist Oscar Pistorius. They can research more about the Flex-Foot and other inventions that help people with physical challenges. Another topic that can be explored further is cerebral palsy.
Other books featuring youth coping with disabilities:
Bingham, Kelly L. SHARK GIRL. 9780763632076
Gallo, Donald R. Ed. OWNING IT: STORIES ABOUT TEENS WITH DISABILITIES. 9780763632557
By Jill Bellomy