School Library Journal Reviews Chasing Orion

During a hot summer in 1952, 11-year-old Georgia Louise Mason’s family moves to a new neighborhood in Indiana. Her brother, Emmett, loves astronomy and basketball and doesn’t mind, but she misses her old friends, though everything has changed since the outbreak of polio. She keeps track of the numbers of new cases from newspaper accounts; she has a grim fascination with this frightening killer disease. She is no longer allowed to swim in public pools or go places where people gather, such as movies. She befriends Phyllis, who lives next door and is in an iron lung; the teen is smart and beautiful, but her body has been decimated by the disease. Phyllis becomes Emmett’s first love, and together the three young people form a special bond, though only Georgie sees what no one else is willing to accept: that Phyllis wants to escape the prison of her iron lung and will manipulate Emmett to achieve her goal. The sophisticated and insightful narration unfolds as if told by the 11-year-old, though it is revealed that an adult Georgie is looking back on this time in her childhood. Her observations about her family, Phyllis and her family, polio and its impact, friends, and more are beyond those of most preteens, though her fascination with mythology and how it is played out in astronomy are used effectively to reflect drama of that period in Georgie’s life. Sophisticated readers will appreciate learning what happens to the likable, sometimes quirky, complex characters.

–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library

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