Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio

Peg Kehret

Historical References

The whole story of Small Steps is full of real events, but I'll name some that others in her case could relate to. One took place on page 30 where Peg thought, "I looked where he pointed, and a wave of horror poured over me as I realized respirator was another name for what was popularly called an iron lung." It's something that many of the people who got polio experienced; the fear of an iron lung.

Another thing commonly experienced by many polio patients was the Kenny Treatments. On page 49, it tells, "The first (part) was hot packs, and I had begun getting these twice a day in isolation, as soon as my fever broke."

One more real event that was included in the book was Christmas at the Sheltering Arms. On page 89, there is a picture of Renee, Dorothy, and Peg at their Christmas event.

Main Characters

The main character is Peg Schulze, now Peg Kehret. One of the only clearly mentioned in the text is that she's already five-eight at age twelve. When she first finds out she has polio, she's upset and therefore stubborn. When she begins her physical therapy and the Kenny treatments, she begins to act a little whiny. She doesn't do her best to withstand the pain for Mrs. Crab. To show that, page 59 says, "But I still didn't like Mrs. Crab. And whenever I was sure Dr. Bevis was not nearby, I still yelled." After all that, though, she began to act rather resilient.

Opinion on the Book

I liked the book a lot because it was dramatic, but had a nice, realistic ending. On page 161, the text says, "My emotions were a roller coaster, rocketing to elation that I would be soon be home to stay and then plunging to sadness at the though to leaving my friends." So although she got to go home, it still had a dramatic, somewhat sad ending.
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Setting of the Story

The main settings are Sheltering Arms in Minneapolis, and the University Hospital. The time is the year 1949.

Major Problems

The major issue in this story is that Peg has caught the disease of poliomyelitis, and she desperately wants to get rid of it. She goes through physical therapy (which she called Torture Time) and exercises, and she ended up able to walk once more, which is the resolution. She still has post-polio syndrome, but for the most part, her problem is solved.

Memorable Quotes

These are three quotes from the book that impacted me.

  1. On page 174, during the epilogue, it says, "When my doctor recommended physical therapy, I burst out laughing. Here it comes, I thought. The Return of Torture Time." This impacted me by showing me that one little memory can keep an adult a kid at heart.
  2. On page 170, the text shows, "I opened my music and began to sing." This one is one I can relate to, since I also turn to music after or during a hard time.
  3. Back at page 37, it tells, ""This is our daughter, and she has had nothing to eat for over a week. If a chocolate milkshake is what she wants, and she thinks she can drink it, then a chocolate milkshake is what she is going to have."" This tells that your parents will do a whole lot for you, including breaking the rules, and I appreciate it.