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Saturday, May 07, 2016

Small Steps a Fascinating Medical Memoir About Triumph Of Spirit Over Body

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Before she became a bestselling, award-winning children's author, Peg Schulze Kehret had an experience that would change her life forever.  In 1949, at 12 years old, she contracted polio.  Not just one kind, but all three types: respiratory, spinal, and bulbar.  For three weeks, the disease paralyzed her from the neck down.  Although the paralysis went away, Peg still had trouble swallowing, breathing problems, and constant, all-over pain.  Hospitalized for about six months in a Minneapolis facility 100 miles from her home in Austin, Minnesota, she also experienced frustration, fear, homesickness, and loneliness.  Eventually, Kehret beat the disease, but the memories of her days as a polio patient still loom large in her mind.  "Those months," she wrote, "more than any other time in my life, molded my personality" (10).

In 1996, Kehret published Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio.  The memoir is both heartbreaking and fascinating.  Kehret tells her story in a warm, compelling way that gives children an honest account of what happened to her, while making it clear that she was one of the luckier polio patients.  Unlike some of her roommates at the hospital, Kehret had parents who cared for her and made a point of visiting her often.  While the author describes the excruciating treatments she had to endure, she does so with self-deprecating humor and gratitude (gained in hindsight) for the lessons it taught her.  Even though the effects of polio have come back to haunt Kehret in her later life, she ends her memoir on a positive, hopeful note.  The overall message of Small Steps is one of triumph over difficulty and thankfulness for the things many of us take for granted every day—breathing easily, walking without assistance, moving painlessly, etc.  It's an excellent memoir, one kids should find accessible and interesting.  I certainly did.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of All Better Now by Emily Wing Smith)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. So is this geared towards kids? It sounds like an interesting read. I don't know how some people endure the things they do.

    1. Yes, it's for kids. The teacher my daughter had for third grade reads it out loud to her class every year. It might be a tiny bit scary because of the hospital setting, but overall, it's a positive, upbeat book. Interesting, too.

  2. Sounds like an interesting read. I like memoirs. Might have to pick it up even if it is geared towards kids. Great review!


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