By Iain Lawrence
The spring of 1955 tests Laurie Valentine’s gifts as a storyteller. After her friend Dickie contracts polio and finds himself confined to an iron lung, Laurie visits him in the hospital . She meets two other kids trapped inside the breathing machines: there’s Carolyn, an obnoxious girl whose family has abandoned her, and Chip, a boy with an enigmatic past. Laurie’s first impulse is to flee from the sickly children, but Dickie begs her to tell them a story. And so Laurie beings her tale of Collosso, a rampaging giant, and Jimmy, a tiny boy whose destiny is to become a slayer of giants.
As Laurie embellishes her tale with gnomes, unicorns, gryphons, and other fanciful creatures, Dickie comes to believe that he is a character in her story. No longer paralyzed, he’s transformed into Khan, a hunter of mythical beasts. Little by little, Carolyn, Chip, and other kids who comes to listen recognize counterparts as well. The story allows them to forget reality and take on active, heroic roles. In fact, Laurie’s tale is so powerful that when she’s prevented from continuing it, Dickie, Carolyn, and Chip take turns as narrators. Each helps bring the story of Collosso and Jimmy to an end–changing the lives of those in the polio ward in startling ways.
One of the things I like about this book is how it takes a contemporary story line and a fantasy story line and weaves the two together into one story. And when they overlap, you have to wonder, did Laurie’s story really affect their lives or was it all coincidence?
The characters, both in the fantasy world and in the hospital ward, are endearing and fun to go on the story’s adventure with.
The Giant Slayer is a sweet novel with a unique blend of genres and how they are each told.
Cautions: two blasphemy; mild magic