** Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to review an Advance Reader Copy. This book will be available for purchase on April 7, 2020.
The world is currently in the midst of a pandemic, which has prohibited many sports teams from competing or even practicing. This might not seem like the perfect time for a book about sports to be released. Still, I think it is the perfect time for this book about sports. Social distancing had a different meaning to soldiers with spinal cord injuries after World War I. They were seen as a lost cause and were given little help, even from the medical community, to survive. A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games, written by Lori Alexander and illustrated by Allan Drummond, tells the story of one doctor who refused to accept the status quo and upended society’s beliefs about disability in general.
Ludwig Guttmann worked as an orderly in hospitals during World War I and he was saddened by the way that paraplegics were treated. They were seen as a lost cause. He worked in hospitals in Germany as a neurosurgeon until the Nazi Party made it impossible for him to stay. Ludwig ended up working for the British army and he came up with several innovative ideas to assess neurological functioning. If you have ever had a sweat test, you can thank Dr. Guttmann. Eventually, he got a job at Stoke Mandeville Hospital where he treated soldiers with spinal cord injuries. Unlike the treatments he saw after World War I, Dr. Guttmann pushed his patients to remain hopeful and to use their bodies, just in new ways. One day, he saw a group of patients outside in their wheelchairs, hitting something on the ground with sticks. They were playing hockey. Ludwig started to incorporate sports into his patients’ treatment plans.
It was only when Ludwig began organizing competitions between hospitals that his new methods came to the attention of the public. Soon, hospitals in different countries wanted to compete and there were so many competitors that qualifying rounds needed to be held. Does this sound familiar? It was starting to be just like the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee was interested. The Paralympics began and demonstrated to people around the world that individuals with disabilities were just as capable of dramatic feats as their non-disabled peers. When it came to courage and persistence, their accomplishments were even larger.
All of this happened because one man was unwilling to accept death as the inevitable result of spinal injury. He didn’t just give people back their lives, he gave them back their humanity. He saw each patient as an individual capable of great things and he did everything within his power to convince the patients, and others around them, that he was right.
Right now, we need books for children that celebrate life and encourage inventiveness. With Alexander’s writing, Drummond’s illustrations, and many archival photographs, A Sporting Chance is the perfect book for children unwilling to accept the status quo.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Diversity 6: I like knowing people who are like me and different from me, and I treat each person with respect.
Diversity 10: I know that the way groups of people are treated today, and the way they have been treated in the past, is a part of what makes them who they are.
Justice 11: I try and get to know people as individuals because I know it is unfair to think all people in a shared identity group are the same.
Justice 15: I know about the actions of people and groups who have worked throughout history to bring more justice and fairness to the world.
RI.3- Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
RI.5- Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
RI.8- Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.