The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen quickly rose to a quiet favorite as I read it.
While an accomplished author, Van Draanen is new to me. I know, I know: you are shocked. Heck, I'll be lucky if my close literacy friends don't disown me with that fact: Maika Yeigh has loved Flipped since it came out in 2001. But I digress: In addition to writing Flipped, Van Draanen authored the Sammy Keyes mysteries and Runaway among others. She is well known among the intermediate and middle school grades but this arena was not one I had seen her attack before. Folks who know me likely know my history with sports. While I am not competitive, physical movement has fueled my life. Alysa found The Running Dream in the library, handed it to me and said, "Read the inside cover. You might like this."
Smart girl, that Alysa. Once I started, I had to finish that same day, staying up late to complete the read. I enjoyed the challenges the main character, Jessica, experiences as she learns how to live life fully after having her lower leg amputated. Greater she struggles to unearth who she is, as a one-legged athlete who misses her two-legged adventures desperately. Over time, Van Draanen masterfully catches us in her story-telling web as we learn how Jessica grows into her own presence, journeying with new-found friends whom she would have never genuinely associated with while she had two legs. While I have been blessed with a lifetime filled with physical movement, I treasure looking back at the moments where I found my way through what seemed like impossible challenges, helping me know more of who I was at the time and discovering the community of folks who readily joined my journey.
One of the things I most appreciated about this book is how Van Draanen wrote it. She offers a spaciousness here in this text, which in turn offered me time to negotiate my own fears and discomfort with how living must be different for amputees. It also gave me time to land in a confirmation of the characters, ones whom likely walk around me everyday, just asking to be recognized for who they are not what they are missing.
I wholehearted encourage folks to read this book. The main character is a sophomore in high school, but I could easily see invested and engaged readers from fifth and sixth grade and definitely middle school thoroughly devouring this text. Readers who want to know more about running, amputation, and girl athletes will like this book.