Chasing Orion

Chasing Orion

4.6 9
by Kathryn Lasky

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When a beautiful teen with polio enters their lives, a girl and her older brother find themselves drawn into a web of lies in this compelling novel by a best-selling author.

Eleven-year-old Georgie loves science-fiction movies, but she won’t be going to the theater anytime soon. It’s a hot Indiana summer in 1952, and public places from pools to

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When a beautiful teen with polio enters their lives, a girl and her older brother find themselves drawn into a web of lies in this compelling novel by a best-selling author.

Eleven-year-old Georgie loves science-fiction movies, but she won’t be going to the theater anytime soon. It’s a hot Indiana summer in 1952, and public places from pools to camps are closing to slow the spread of polio. Despite all the headlines, Georgie never thought she’d come as close to the fearful disease as she does when she spies a silver glint in her neighbor’s yard. There she discovers a monstrous, hissing machine, and inside is Phyllis, a girl encased in an iron lung. "I have eighty-seven cubic centimeters of air, but you have the world," Phyllis tells her. Phyllis’s ability to breathe may be limited, but her strength to manipulate is boundless. As Georgie struggles to comprehend this once-gorgeous teenager’s life in a "coffin with legs," Phyllis slowly weaves a web of lies that snare all those around her, including Georgie’s quickly smitten brother. Can Georgie untangle the truth before Phyllis’s deception achieves its inevitable end?

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susan Treadway M.Ed.
When does fiction become expository text due to key nonfiction elements? Historical fiction brings worldwide cultures, events, individuals, and time lines into focus with personalized stories and distinct perspectives. They are valuable for instruction no matter the age of the audience. And certainly, artists have incorporated historical novels into blockbuster works which expand and broaden their educational value. Lesser known periods of history are then successfully brought to light for later generations through powerful creations. In this moving story, an eleven-year-old girl moves to a new neighborhood in Indiana where a most intriguing discovery is made. Georgie tells her own family story in the first person. Readers are drawn into the life of Phyllis, a teenager the same age as her brother Emmett, who must reside in an iron lung because of polio. But as a preteen, she is also a curious, imaginative youngster who creates small worlds, hence the title. The book opens with Georgie describing assorted changes in her life. Primary on the list is the difficult fact that they cannot go swimming all summer due to a serious polio outbreak, not even for her birthday on the Fourth of July. In addition, she is very excited when Orion is born, her very own new small world based on the constellation. Already within the first thirty pages, readers are given basic facts about the horrible disease of polio as Georgie sorts out symptoms and varying conditions. First called "infantile paralysis," the polio germ attacks nerves in the spinal cord so that breathing becomes impossible. While treating polio in 1952 was not promising and iron lungs were in short supply, newer technology still brought hope to many. Quite effectively, we are brought into not only the uncertain world of a dramatic young girl's mind and soul, but also inside a major period of America's history. Unfortunately, however, Phyllis is not merely a character who suffers from polio's effects and is befriended by caring neighbors. Interwoven with that significant theme is a more devious undercurrent of deceit as her weaknesses breed surprising strengths. Is Phyllis determined to win Emmett's heart by less than stellar means? Can Georgie summon her wits to protect her brother and family? What else might nearly wreak havoc through engaging characters? This award-winning author invites us to dive in and find out. She keenly uses vocabulary studies, ranging emotions, critical medicine, societal concerns, and memorable fiction to showcase real difficulties while growing up in the 1950s. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—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
Kirkus Reviews
It seems unfair to 11-year-old Georgie Mason that in Indiana's summer heat she can't go swimming or even to the movies for fear of catching polio. It is "simply and horribly unbelievable," however, that her teenage neighbor Phyllis is living in an iron lung, viewing the world through mirrors like Tennyson's tower-bound Lady of Shalott. Georgie's struggle with the cosmic implications of her neighbor's plight-and her rising fear that Phyllis might be seducing her brother Emmett into helping her die-form the core of this gut-punching, often very funny novel that asks serious questions about our corporeal selves, faith, power, alienation, euthanasia and, it being 1952, the relative importance of saddle shoes. Lasky creates an unusually credible, likable 11-year-old voice and expertly maps Georgie's emotional terrain, a rich landscape shaped by literature and peppered with sound bites such as "I was very malaised" and "I like reasons for stuff." A truly extraordinary page-turner that embraces life's big and small aspects with humor and a healthy respect for its profound contradictions. (Historical fiction. 11 & up)

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.40(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

Kathryn Lasky is the author of many acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books, including ONE BEETLE TOO MANY: THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF CHARLES DARWIN and SUGARING TIME, a Newbery Honor Book. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Chasing Orion 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful. Lovely writing, wonderful story. MUST READ!!!!!! Worth the money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rule#1 no goddmoddinv Rule#2 no killing pups Rule#3 wolves and cyotes only Rule#4 if a pup imprints on you and you get attached the pup is now yours Map: Result#1 rules and map Result#2 main area Result#3-7 dens Result#8 nusery for pack born pups Ranks: alpha_fire Alpha pup_orion Beta- omega_none yet
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I want this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1: Kiss you hand 2: Post this on three different books 3: Look under your pillow