Art © Constance Bergum 2006                                                 

Peachtree Publishers * Illustrated by Constance Bergum  *  ISBN: 1-561-45376-5


Flap Copy:  Before my sister Katya could even walk, she loved to dance. I’d swoop her up, light as a seed puff, and twirl her around and around…

Anna and her little sister Katya live on a Wisconsin farm. Their favorite game is dancing in the meadow, pretending they are beautiful ballerinas in satin slippers with ribbons tied around their ankles. But when Katya falls ill with a mysterious, crippling disease called polio, her dancing dreams are put on hold--perhaps forever.

Even though Katya's health improves, the sickness has left her legs weak and misshapen.  Mama and Katya must travel to a special hospital in Minneapolis, where Katya will learn to walk again. While waiting eagerly for her sister's return, Anna dreams of returning once more to their ballerina game.

Katya's homecoming, however, is bittersweet. She has ugly, bulky braces on her legs, and walks as stiffly as a dime store soldier. Both girls are sorely disappointed, and Katya grows increasingly despondent. Ultimately, though, Anna uses her ingenuity--and her heart--to find a way for her sister to dance again, in her own joyous way.

Behind the scenes: This story was written as a tribute to my mother, Kathryn Baratka Kozak, who was stricken with Infantile Paralysis (polio) when she was very small.  Like Katya, she had surgeries, but the surgeries never totally corrected her twisted foot.  For the rest of her life, she walked with a limp and had to wear special shoes. But Kathryn did have a pioneer spirit, as well as a creative and loving spirit.  She married and raised seven children and lived a full life to the age of 91.  She was an amazing woman.

Kirkus: When her younger sister contracts polio, a farm girl finds a way to bring wonder and joy back into her life. Anna and her sister Katya have always loved to dance together, pretending to be ballerinas. After five-year-old Katya suffers from polio, her legs remain so weak and crooked she can barely walk with crutches. Anna promises Katya she will dance again, but wonders if Katya will even be able to walk. Anna is hopeful when Mama takes Katya to specialists in Minneapolis. Katya returns home walking, but she must wear heavy metal braces to support her legs. A depressed Katya tells Anna she will never be able to dance in her ugly braces. Anna, however, manages to erase Katya’s sadness and help her dance in her own special way. Lovely realistic watercolors capture the look and feel of early 20th-century Midwestern farm life, as well as the mood and spirit of the two sisters. A warm and inspiring tribute to one sister’s love and the other’s courage. (author and illustrator notes)


© 2006 Dori Chaconas