Far more than a history of a single sporting event, “A Sporting Chance” is at the same time an informative, well-researched and referenced, and uplifting narrative. Author Alexander and illustrator Drummand begin with the Greek surgeon, Galen, who studied the spines of gladiators who had fallen from their chariots. Although the spine, injuries to it, and treatments are studied in the intervening millennium, survival past the first year of an accident is unheard of. People with paraplegia were still often considered – and referred to – as “incurables” through the 1940’s. Enter Dr. Ludwig Guttman, a German neurologist, refugee from Nazi Germany. His personal story, as a young athlete and outdoors enthusiast, German Jew, researcher and physician, is crafted in such a way as to provide the context of the Holocaust and society’s (dis)regard of disabled people in his time. Guttman is asked to take the lead of a hospital which cares for hundreds of WWII soldiers with spinal injuries – a position deemed by colleagues to be a hopeless, dead-end job. This is not so for Guttman, who, in a short time, changes the outcomes and hopes of his patients, by insisting they sit, move, create, and participate in athletic games. The hospital begins to host “The Stoke Mandeville Games,” eventually attracting participants from 20 countries competing in 11 sports. The narrative culminates with vignettes of Paralympians such as skiier Muffy Davis and wheelchair basektball player Brian Bell.
Just the right number of informational insets (“Nervous System,” “Learning to Sit,” “Treatment of People with Disabilities Throughout History”) are interspersed throughout the text along with Drummand’s illustrations which are full of energy and motion. This middle level non-fiction book lends itself to an upper elementary or middle school read-aloud, and a most interesting read for the rest of us!
A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games
written by Lori Alexander; illustrated by Allan Drummond.
New Arrivals, 2nd Floor
(Curriculum Collection, Non-Fiction) 2nd Floor 796.0456 Ale