The Running Dream
Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January, 2011
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?
As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.
What I Think: There are lots of reasons I loved this book! To start, I'm a runner and I loved how Jessica talks about running. There are so many great descriptions of running throughout the book. Because Jessica has running taken away from her but then given back to her, this book is really inspirational. It's inspirational about running but also about friendships and relationships. There seems to be a great camaraderie amongst runners as I'm sure there are in other sports. The Running Dream truly celebrates the determination, motivation and will that runners possess but also the freedom and energy that comes with running. I instantly realized how great this would be for a PE teacher to have in his or her library. My husband, a PE teacher for grades 1-8, has a special shelf in the school library for books that he recommends. This is a book that I am definitely recommending to him for his shelf!
What really connected with my heart is how Jessica's story connects with Rosa's story. As a teacher who worked with students with special needs for ten years, I will always have a place in my heart for them. In college, we were taught to refer to kids with hearing loss, with visual impairments, with cerebral palsy, etc. as kids first, as people first. It's really hard for me to hear people say things like, "that autistic kid," or "the Down's girl". It's just not okay because all of these kids are kids first, their disability doesn't define them and it's not fair that we judge them and refer to them in that way. I love how Wendelin brings Rosa to life. She has so much charm and spirit and readers can truly see that. I was reminded over and over again of all the students I worked with who were great kids. I wish more people could take the time to get to know them and appreciate them for all that they are. I'm so glad readers have this book and hope that it will encourage students to take time to get to know kids who they might not usually spend time with.
As a writer, I loved the meld of fiction with non-fiction in this book. My grandfather had diabetes from the time he was 14. When he was older, they had to amputate his leg from the knee down. I remember him talking about phantom pains and wanting to itch his foot. The description of Jessica recovering from losing her leg and then learning how to walk and run with a prosthetic seemed very accurate to me. There were various parts throughout the book where the description of this seemed very detailed and I could imagine Wendelin doing research on what people experience when they have a leg amputated and how it feels to walk and run with a prosthetic. This book seemed like such a great example of how non-fiction research factors into a fiction novel. This is one of the reasons I love this book as a mentor text. Combined with great description and characters, I think this book should be in every middle and high school classroom or school library.
Read Together: Grades 6 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 7 - 12
Read With: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Wonder by RJ Palacio, Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine, Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Snatch of Text:
"My life is over.
Behind the morphine dreams is the nightmare of reality.
A reality I can't face.
I cry myself back to sleep, wishing, pleading, praying that I'll wake up from this, but the same nightmare always awaits me." (p. 1)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing, Asking Questions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Expository, Commas (series)
Writing Prompts: Write about a time when you took time to get to know someone. How did you perceptions of that person change?
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Will, Determination, Belief, Loss, Compassion, Empathy, Disabilities,