Anniversary of the Salk Vaccine

It was 62 years ago today – March 26, 1953 – that Dr. Jonas Salk, an American medical researcher and virologist, announced on national radio that he had successfully tested a vaccine that could prevent polio, a crippling disease that attacks the central nervous system, and can result in paralysis. The vaccine became known as the Salk vaccine. A number of Canadian children’s books featuring characters with polio have been published over the years. Commemorate this anniversary in your classroom or library with Canadian children’s books.

The Giant-Slayer
Written by Iain Lawrence
Delacorte Press, 2009
ISBN 978-0-385-73376-2
292 pages, 6” x 8 1/2”
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-6
As Laurie visits the children in the polio unit, she weaves them a tale about Colosso, the rampaging giant, and Jimmy, a tiny boy whose destiny is to become the giant-slayer. While Laurie embellishes the tale with gnomes, unicorns, gryphons and other fanciful creatures, the children all begin to recognize their counterparts in the story. Eventually the children take over as narrators, changing their lives in startling ways.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Hero of Lesser Causes
Written by Julie Johnston
Tundra Books, 2003
ISBN 978-0-88776-649-7
IL: Ages 10 and up RL: Grades 5-6
World War II has just been won, and everything seems possible to young Keely Connor. She sees herself as a hero on a white charger, able to conquer the world, even though in reality her charger is Lola, the placid horse that lives in the field behind her house. One fateful summer day her brother Patrick is stricken with polio. Here is an enemy Keely cannot conquer. With all the will in the world, she cannot pass on to Patrick her zest or her energy or her own good health.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
In the Clear
Written by Anne Laurel Carter
Orca Book Publishers, 2001
ISBN 978-1-55143-192-5
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5
Pauline has survived polio, months confined to an iron lung, and excruciating physical therapy. Now, she dreams of playing hockey. Her father has made a rink for her; can she overcome her fears and break free from her mother to realize her dream? This novel alternates, chapter by chapter, between Pauline’s horror-filled year in the hospital five years earlier and her struggles to adapt in the present of 1959 and 1960. At the end of the book, her triumphs in past and present come together and she is able to move forward with new friendships, a renewed bond with her mother and, most important, a new faith in herself.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War
Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Pajama Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9869495-1-7
IL: Ages 10 and up RL: Grades 4-6
Tuyet was one of 57 orphans airlifted from Saigon to Toronto during the final days of the Vietnam War. As an older child, Tuyet feared that she would not be adopted like the other children were. Polio has weakened her and has left her with a limp. Based on personal interviews and enhanced with archival photos, Tuyet’s story of the Saigon orphanage and her flight to Canada is an emotional and suspenseful journey. Young readers will also like the sequel, One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
To Stand On My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson
(Dear Canada)
Written by Barbara Haworth-Attard
Scholastic Canada, 2010
ISBN 978-1-4431-0017-5
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5
Noreen, a young girl in Saskatoon, records her experiences with polio from July to November, 1937, in her diary. Frightened and alone, many children were sent to hospitals far from home for treatment. As she faces daily struggles and triumphs, she remains hopeful and proactive.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

For more books on historical topics, visit the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s History Book Bank.