Friday, October 21, 2011

Scary Spring: Our Polio Fright of 1955

Carol A. Hartnell has written a fun, semi-autobiographical series detailing life in the 1950s, called The Adventures of Pete and Carol Ann. Carol Ann and her friend Pete live in an era of hot rods, red vinyl and silver chrome, malt shops and neighborhood friends. However, Pete and Carol Ann must also face polio scares, vaccination shots and the grumpy old man next door.

In Scary Spring: Our Polio Fright of 1955 Carol Ann's Aunt Ruthie is a doctor working on the latest vaccine for polio. Carol Ann doesn't like shots, and her spring is overshadowed by her fear of receiving the vaccination. However, she still has plenty of time to have fun, whether she is entertaining her siblings or the beagle puppy next door, planning for Easter, or watching the teens in their fast cars. Pete is always up for helping entertain the younger kids, as long as Carol Ann's mom has warm cookies waiting!

Carol Ann and Pete learn to trust God despite a car crash, a malt shop altercation and a serious illness. They also learn about true friendship when they realize people aren't always who they seem to be.

The book includes black and white, captioned photos of the real Carol Ann, her siblings, Aunt Ruthie and polio vaccine inventor, Dr. Jonas Salk. The "Epilogue" provides additional information about Dr. Salk, a list of references, and Carol Ann's mother's recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

What I Like: Hartnell's descriptive writing puts us right into the 1950s with the characters. We can almost taste the hamburgers and malts and feel Carol Ann's misery as she has a high fever and bad dreams. We can imagine Carol Ann's pretty dress as she walks to church on Easter morning, and we laugh when we think of Pete in his clown/pirate/Peter Pan costume.

I also like the story. It was interesting to learn about Dr. Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine, as well as the vaccine trials conducted across the country. Pete and Carol Ann feel like my own next-door neighbors, and I was so happy when Carol Ann found her courage and Pete learned to pray.

The book is well-written and feels more like a novel than a memoir, even though it is based on Hartnell's own experiences.

What I Dislike: Nothing

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 8-12, although younger children may be interested as well.

Publisher Info: Hawk Prints: Hartnell House Publishing, 2010; ISBN: 978-1-936119-19-6; Paperback, $5.99

Buy it at for $4.99.

The book is also available at GP Goods.

Special Note: Carol Ann is afraid of shots, but overcomes her fear at the end of the book. If your own children share her fear, you may want to preview the book.

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