Feature Book of the Week #13 The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanan

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


 Feature Book of the Week
Running Dream
by Wendelin Van Draanan

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

A Guest Post by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Running Dream was a book I didn’t want to write. I believe in hope and optimism and that we should embrace the joys of life, and the story idea of a girl who lives to run losing one of her legs seemed depressing and dark and…awful.

But the idea wouldn’t let me go. I first got it on the flight home after running the New York City marathon. (Despite having now completed six marathons, I am not “a marathoner.”  I swear after every marathon that it’s my last.  I tell myself to do more sensible things…like yoga, or weight lifting, or walk on the beach. Still, I always come back to running.)

At every marathon I’ve seen runners who are structurally challenged. People with one atrophied leg. People with odd, painful looking gaits. People who are blind, running with a sighted runner. People with prosthetic limbs. And I marvel at how determined these people must be to complete a 26.2 mile race. How incredible they are…and what a wimp I am!

So the idea for The Running Dream simmered in my head for quite some time. I was compelled by the notion that this could happen to anyone. Then I came up with the idea of Rosa—a girl born with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, overlooked by her classmates, wanting to be seen for herself instead of her disability. It was putting the popular girl and the special needs girl together at the same table that convinced me that this was a story worth exploring. And when I finally dared to meet my character, Jessica, on the first page where she’s certain life is no longer worth living, I was done for. I became obsessed with the story, with bringing Jessica back into life, and with her desire to bring Rosa along with her.

The ironic thing about this book is that, while the idea for it seemed so dark and depressing at the onset, it turned out to be an uplifting story of triumph, compassion, friendship, and hope. I’m so glad I wrote it.

About the Author 

Books have always been a part of Wendelin Van Draanen's life. Her mother taught her to read at an early age, and she has fond memories of story time with her father, when she and her brothers would cuddle up around him and listen to him read stories.

Growing up, Van Draanen was a tomboy who loved to be outside chasing down adventure. She did not decide that she wanted to be an author until she was an adult. When she tried her hand at writing a screenplay about a family tragedy, she found the process quite cathartic and from that experience, turned to writing novels for adults. She soon stumbled upon the joys of writing for children.

Feedback from her readers is Van Draanen's greatest reward for writing. "One girl came up to me and told me I changed her life. It doesn't get any better than that," she said. Van Draanen hopes to leave her readers with a sense that they have the ability to steer their own destiny-that individuality is a strength, and that where there's a will, there's most certainly a way.

Her first book was published in 1997, and since then her titles have been nominated for State Award Master Lists all over the country. Now in its tenth installment, the Sammy Keyes Mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children’s Mystery four times in six years, with Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief bringing home the statue. Additionally, she has won the Christopher medal for Shredderman: Secret Identity, and the California Young Reader Medal for Flipped. Her books have been translated into many foreign languages, and have been optioned for film and television projects. She lives in California with her husband and two sons. Her hobbies include the “Three R’s”: Reading, Running and Rock ‘n’ Roll. (author info retrieved from Random House)


7 Delicious Comments:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't put this book down and I absolutely hate running! I loved Rosa and actually wished she was focused on more during the book. Maybe a sequel with her as the main character?

St. Clare of Assisi

Anonymous said...

The Running Dream was a very inspirational book! Jessica never gave up on her dream, and didn't let anything, even losing her leg, get in her way. Her friendship with Rosa was so strong! This book really shows how if you always believe in yourself and don't give up, you can do what seems the impossible.

-Wentzville Middle School

Anonymous said...

I liked Rosa - I think the book would have fallen apart without her - she was crucial to the plot. I liked her friends and the way they supported her - it was very realistic. we felt like in some ways it was realistic but needed more conflict or tension to support the story.

Ladue Middle School

Anonymous said...

The Running Dream is one of my favorites so far. It's very inspirational on many levels, and shows us how good things can come out of bad. I love it a lot!

~Hazelwood West Middle School

Anonymous said...

The Running Dream shows us that even in the hardest times, when things seem impossible, if you have enough heart and determination, with a little help, you can achieve anything! Nothing is impossible!

Hazelwood West Middle School

Anonymous said...

I think anyone who has felt like giving up on something should really read The Running Dream. Once they realize that Jessica and even Rosa can reach their dreams, maybe they'll get that boost of confidence that nothing is impossible when you try and work hard at it. If a girl who loves to run looses her leg can find a way to run again, then anyone can reach their goals too. That's one thing that I took out of this amazing book. Everyone should read this :D

-Hazelwood West Middle School-

Anonymous said...

This book made me want to cry! It is SOOOO good! I love it so much!


Hazelwood West Middle School

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