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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Jonas Salk

More from the 1950s: Polio

Another threat besides communism terrified people in the 1950s, especially because it primarily affected children: polio. 1952 saw the largest epidemic in US history: 57,879 people contracted polio that summer, and more than 3000 of died. By the end of the decade the disease was nearly eradicated in the US thanks to two forms of vaccines developed by Drs. Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. Here are a few titles that help us understand this part of the recent past.



Chasing Orion

Kathryn Lasky
Candlewick 2012 

From the Newbery Honor author (Sugaring Time). 11 year old Georgie and her family have just moved into a new house. It’s the summer of 1952 and pools, parks, and other gathering spots are closed due to the polio epidemic. Georgie makes friends with the teenage girl next door, Phyllis, who is now in an iron lung as a result of the disease.  Kirkus star.


Epidemic: The Battle Against Polio

Stephanie Draper
Benchmark Books, 2005

Photo illustrated survey of the history of the disease, including a section on the debate over whether FDR’s paralysis was caused by polio or some other disease. Includes timeline of polio-related events.


Fleabrain Loves Franny

Joanne Rocklin
Amulet Books, 2015

Pittsburgh, 1952. 11-year-old Franny has polio and is undergoing extensive therapy. She befriends a genius flea and falls in love with a brand new book, Charlotte’s Web. Includes author’s note, bibliography, and discussion guide. Bank Street College of Education’s “The Best Children’s Books of the Year,” Ages 9-12.


Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine

Katherine Krohn and Al Milgrom (illus.)
Capstone Press, 2007

A graphic novel that focuses on the efforts to find a vaccine. Back matter includes a condensed history of the disease and biography of Salk. Extensive bibliography. Part of the Inventions and Discoveries Graphic Library series.


King of the Mound (My Summer with Satchel Paige)

Wes Tooke
Simon and Schuster, 2012

When Nick is released from the hospital after suffering from polio, he is sure that his father will never look at him in the same way again. Once the best pitcher in youth league, Nick now walks with a limp and is dependent on a heavy leg brace.  Things look up when he gets to hang out at the local semi-pro ball park, where he meets the great Satchel Paige.


Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio

Peg Kehret
Albert Whitman, 2006 anniversary edition

The author of numerous state-award-winning children’s books (including Nightmare Mountain, The Ghost’s Grave, Stolen Children) describes her battle against polio when she was thirteen and her efforts to overcome its debilitating effects. Small Steps has also won many state reader’s choice awards.


Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven

Susan Richards Shreve
Houghton Mifflin, 2007 

Just after her eleventh birthday, at the height of the frightening childhood polio epidemic, the future best-selling author of many books for adults and children (The Flunking of Joshua T. Bates, Ghost Cat) was sent as a patient to the sanitarium at Warm Springs, Georgia. It was a place famously founded by FDR, “a perfect setting in time and place and strangeness for a hospital of crippled children.” For older readers and adults.


The Fourteenth Goldfish

The versatile Jennifer L. Holm pens a fantasy this time around, but it’s a story suffused with humor and science, deftly asking a mind-blowing question: is it a good thing to grow old? So what happens when a 13-year-old boy shows up on your doorstep, arguing with your mom, who invites him in, and it […]