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The Giant-Slayer Paperback – Jan 10 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (Jan. 10 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440239710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440239710
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #175,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Format: Hardcover
Iain Lawrence is a magical storyteller, and a magical historian of the recent past. Remembering the "polio summers", I can give this book to my grandkids, and assure them that's exactly what it was like. The 1950s details are impeccably researched, but the books never seems "educational". The characters are believable and so are the giants and gryphons, and I laughed and cried with them all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 14 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A California Young Reader Medal Nominee June 30 2012
By juliej - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Update: This book DID win the California Young Reader Medal!

I chose this book to read because it is a California Young Reader Medal Nominee for Intermediate level, 2012-2013. I enjoyed the other two nominees ("Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" and "Eleven" so I had a feeling I would like this one, too. About half-way into the book I decided I had to check out the reviews on Amazon to see if other people were feeling the same as I started feeling while reading this book. Imagine my shocked surprise to find there were only FIVE reviews. I was expecting many, many more.

The Giant-Slayer is the kind of book that as soon as you get into the story, you want to tell everyone to find the book and read it ... NOW. Then, as you start getting toward the end, you start reading slower, because you don't want it to be over. And finally, after it's done, you read the afterward, the acknowledgements, the back cover and inside covers, because you just don't want to let go. Then, you write a review on Amazon, because more people need to pick up this book.

The Giant-Slayer is a story within a story. It's 1955 and Laurie's best friend is hospitalized with polio. She visits him, against her father's wishes, and finds her friend with two other children, all in iron lungs. To entertain her new friends, Laurie starts making up a story ... about a giant-slayer. The story, which starts as a simple diversion, ends up as important as life itself.

I think this book would make an excellent read-aloud for 5-6th graders. But if you are older than that, don't look away, because the message of this book is TIMELESS. I am 45 years old and I loved every moment of reading this book. Had I read it as a child, it would have affected me as much as A Wrinkle in Time, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, or The Neverending Story.

I'm usually not one to pick up a book in the genre of historical fiction, but this book offers the reality of living with polio and the drama about the vaccine along with a compelling fantasy story that brings the two worlds together in an extremely satisfying way. I will not be surprised if this book wins the California Young Reader Medal.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A mesmerizing and masterful piece of work, which will surely find its way to many "Best of the Year" lists Dec 28 2009
By KidsReads - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Laurie Valentine's father works as a fundraiser to fight polio. He and their housekeeper, Mrs. Strawberry, restrict Laurie's activities severely during spring and summer because of the chance she will be exposed to the disease --- to the point that Laurie fears the sight of daffodils that herald the beginning of the dreaded "polio season." Because her father works a lot, Laurie has a quiet, sad and lonely childhood --- that is, until she's 11 and meets the new neighbor, Dickie Espinosa. Dickie is only eight and is tutored at home instead of attending school, but he becomes Laurie's first --- and only --- friend. They play together constantly; much of it centers on stories spun about an imaginary village based on the miniature world of Dickie's detailed toy train set.

As Laurie and Dickie play at the neighborhood creek in early spring, Laurie notices daffodils just beginning to emerge. She stomps them down, but when she returns home, she is in trouble with the protective and terrified Mrs. Strawberry, who fears that the creek might carry the polio virus. After Laurie argues with the housekeeper, her father assures her that if she can hold out just a bit longer, a polio vaccine will soon be available, and her life will no longer be restricted by the threat of contagion. However, Laurie soon learns that Dickie is a victim of the dreaded disease.

When Laurie --- against the wishes of her father and Mrs. Strawberry --- secretly visits the hospital, she finds Dickie in an iron lung. He shares the "respirator room" with two other children who are also in the same awful mechanism: the beautiful and disdainful Carolyn and the rather mysterious Chip. Laurie is horrified when the nurse praises Dickie for, with tremendous effort, barely twitching his fingers. She does not want to show pity to the patients, but is at a loss as to what to say and how to act. So it's a relief when Dickie brags about the stories Laurie invents and then asks her to make up one to entertain the three of them.

Laurie begins to spin an ongoing fantasy tale about a fearful giant and the most unlikely wannabe giant-slayer hero ever, picking up her story with each visit to the hospital. She weaves in suggestions from her listeners and sometimes hits astoundingly close to home, as when she unknowingly gives the Swamp Witch Carolyn's middle name. Meanwhile, Dickie becomes sincerely convinced that he is one of the characters in the tale. As more listeners gather, the background stories of the polio victims are revealed.

At the very beginning of THE GIANT-SLAYER, six-year-old Laurie maps out her vision of the future, which plays a significant role in the resolution of both her fantasy tale and her life story following an unexpected plot twist. Real life and Laurie's fantasy tale weave together throughout the book seamlessly, and author Iain Lawrence writes in an exquisitely understated manner, leaving his unadorned stories --- both the realistic historical fiction and the fantasy tale --- to blindside the reader with powerful emotions. Each story is riveting in its own right, but intertwined they become much more than the sum of their parts. THE GIANT-SLAYER is a mesmerizing and masterful piece of work, which will surely find its way to many "Best of the Year" lists and win some big awards.

--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (terryms2001@yahoo.com)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
THIS is the Polio Book for the Classroom! Oct. 27 2012
By M. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
As a mother who screens everything her 13-year-old daughter reads - and still tries to - I had been quite taken aback by the viewpoint and conclusion of Lois Lowry's "Number the Stars" when I first came across it. I found that book to be an exceptionally inappropriate book on polio victims, especially one written for middle-schoolers, and, as a conservative, pro-life parent, made it known that it was not a book I would ever endorse. Polio, however, is a topic I think is necessary to be aware of, so, in addition to watching "The Five Pennies" with Danny Kaye on video, I encouraged said daughter to read "Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio" by Peg Kehret (first) and then "The Giant-Slayer" by Iain Lawrence. "Small Steps" is autobiographical, so its importance is irrefutable. Of the two books, however, "The Giant-Slayer" is more lyrical and so would appeal more to those who read fairy-tales by choice. The life-affirming message in "The Five Pennies", "Small Steps" and "The Giant-Slayer" need, need, NEED to be reiterated in today's world, especially to those who are incapacitated by illness or otherwise, and more especially in schools. This is definitely a keeper - even if the Kindle price is higher than bound. Said daughter's review follows:

"'The Giant-Slayer' by Iain Lawrence was a very sad, wonderful book.

"It is 1955, and Laurie Valentine is having fun. For the first time in her entire twelve years of life, she is having fun with a friend. That friend is a boy called Dickie, and what they do that day will change both their lives forever.

"The next day, Dickie's in the hospital, in an iron lung. He has polio. He caught it from the stream, where he and Laurie had splashed around. Yet, he was the only one who got it.

"Then, Laurie starts to visit him secretly, and she begins to tell him (and the other child patients in his ward) a tale, a tale about a boy only thirty-one and three-quarters inches high, but who is destined to become a giant-slayer. A tale about a girl who looks like a frog/lizard, but still has a mother somewhere who loves her. A tale about a man who hunts unicorns and a man who makes wishes come true. Soon, everyone in the polio ward - Carolyn, Chip, Dickie, James, Ruth and Peter - begins discovering that the story is eerily like what's going on in the real world.

"But if that is so, is one of them going to die?

"I think that the book was fabulous - it was really sad and bittersweet, yet at the same time I keep going over and over again to reread my favorite passages. MUCH better than other polio books I've read.

"I would give the book five stars: two stars for the characters, two stars for the plot, and one star because of the story within a story within a story.

"Total. Awesomeness."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Flamingnet.com Top Choice Book-beautifully written with a surprise ending Feb. 26 2010
By Flamingnet Teen Book Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is both fantasy and adventure. Laurie, the main
character of the book is a adventurous, smart, imaginative
girl. She has a friend named Dickie who suddenly contracts
polio and ends up in an iron lung. She goes to the hospital
to visit him and is asked to tell a story. She weaves an
amazing tale about Colosso, a giant, and Johnny the Giant
Slayer. Suddenly, she finds that they all can relate to the
story. When it ends, their lives are changed, and all who
heard the story have a new outlook on life.

I LOVED this book, from the first page to the last word, I was hooked.
It had an intriguing plot that took lots of twists and
turns. I think it will rank high on the New York Times
bestseller list. The plot was beautifully written and had a
surprise ending. I hope this author writes more books just
like this one.

Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer
Flamingnet Book Reviews
Teen books reviewed by teen reviewers
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Giant Slayer Feb. 19 2010
By Faithfulgirl www.molcotw.blogspot.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up to read it. From the cover and title, one would expect a fantasy involving a giant, a unicorn, a gnome, and a dragon. However, the book opens telling you that it's 1955 and polio is rampant. What does polio have to do with all these mythical creatures?

Laurie is a young girl who's dad is pretty big with the March of Dimes. They are frantically searching for a cure for polio. Laurie spends her days with her Nanna (her mom died when she was young) and she pretty much isn't allowed to do anything fun. She definitely can't go swimming! One day she runs into a little boy named Dickie and together they have some pretty wild adventures featuring Davey Crockett.

One day, Dickie doesn't come out to play and Laurie learns that he is in the hospital with polio. Laurie misses her friend and begs to go see him. She's finally allowed in and she finds her friend in an iron lung. That's where the stories begin!

Laurie spends time at the hospital weaving this tale of giants, unicorns, dragons, and gnomes to entertain the young children in the hospital. They spend hours listening to her tale becoming more and more entranced by it. It helps them to forget for just a few hours that their lives depend on this iron shell to keep them alive.

I found this story absolutely captivating. It's a story within a story but it all ties in together. I was interested in the background provided about polio (I have several family member affected) and even more so about the iron lung. I think I experienced just about every emotion while reading this book and have found another author that I enjoy reading!

I highly recommend this book to everyone. Regardless of age. I'm hoping that this book will get some wide reviews because the story is just that good!

Consider making a donation to the March of Dimes foundation in your area!

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