There are two main themes in this book. The first concerns the polio epidemic in North Carolina in 1944 and the emergency hospital which came to be known as ‘the miracle of Hickory.’ The second is about relations between blacks and whites at that time.
With her father in the army, thirteen-year-old Ann Fay Honeycutt has to look after the house, the large garden, her two young sisters, and also her mother who is distraught at the death of her son from polio. Then Ann Fay gets polio herself. She is rushed to the emergency hospital where she begins her long struggle back to health.
In hospital she is shocked to find a black (or colored as they were known as at the time) girl in the next bed to her. But Imogen, as the black girl is called, soon becomes a very good friend. When the two girls are moved out of the contagious ward they are both devastated to find that they are to be separated. Despite everything they struggle to continue their friendship.
This book has been thoroughly researched, but the historical facts occur naturally in the story. There are details of the painful Kenny packs used to treat polio, and also of the physiotherapy. And then Ann Fay hears the nurses weeping but does not find out until later that Franklin Delano Roosevelt has died.
Despite everything, this is not a sad or harrowing book. This is because Ann Fay is such a courageous and resilient heroine. The story is told by her in the first person and written just as she would speak, and this adds to the authenticity. It comes with a note and a detailed bibliography. A worthy tribute to all those who fought the polio epidemic of 1944, whether doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, hospital orderlies or victims. Young adult.