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The Running Dream Hardcover – January 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-Jessica has run her personal best at a track meet-then there's a tragic bus accident and the high school junior loses her leg as well as her future dreams. From waking up in the hospital and coping with the trauma, to her return home, then school, she tries to grab her life back. On one level the story offers inspiration to those dealing with physical changes in their own lives and the stages of recovery, fight, survival, and victory as Jessica reaches deep to push past her wall of self-pity and loathing, and moves beyond the "finish line." On a deeper level, there is her blind discrimination toward a fellow classmate who has cerebral palsy. Rosa is hard to understand and easy to ignore. She is anchored to a wheelchair. Jessica, encumbered by her crutches and her tender "stump," is seated in the back of the class, out of the way, next to Rosa. She learns that the girl is smart, wise, and friendly. They pass notes and share lunch. Rosa writes, "I wish people would see me and not my condition." When Jessica is running again-on a specially engineered prosthesis-she challenges herself to help her friend be seen. How Jessica orchestrates putting Rosa in the forefront of a community race and pushing her wheelchair across a finish line is a study in faith and determination. Readers will cheer for Jessica's recovery and be reminded to recognize people for their strengths and not overlook them because of their disabilities.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Sixteen-year-old Jessica is the track team’s star sprinter until tragedy strikes: the team van is struck, killing one runner and demolishing Jessica’s right leg. The book begins with Jessica refusing to acknowledge the result: a stump. But she is slowly reintroduced to life, which involves being fitted for a prosthesis, returning to school, and dealing with the usual—tough teachers, mean girls, and one really hot, sensitive, supportive boy. It’s a classic problem novel in a lot of ways; accordingly, Van Draanen inserts setbacks with narrative precision, the most affecting of which (surprisingly) is the insurance battle that Jessica’s parents face. Overall, though, this is a tremendously upbeat book, with Jessica’s family, friends, and community coming together (the track team raises funds to buy Jessica a $20,000 running leg). Even a subplot involving Jessica’s friendship with the cerebral palsy–afflicted Rosa is not as treacly as it could have been. Van Draanen’s extensive research into both running and amputees pays dividends—readers will truly feel what it’s like to walk (or run) a mile (or 10) in Jessica’s shoes. Grades 7-10. --Daniel Kraus

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375866671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375866678
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (279 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

"Through writing, I open up my heart and soul in ways I never could in everyday life. The joy, the pain, the wonder and loneliness I felt in growing up, meld into stories which I hope will help kids believe in themselves and have compassion for those around them."--Wendelin Van Draanen

Wendelin Van Draanen is the winner of the 1999 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children's Mystery Book for Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes is a 2003 Edgar Award nominee.

Visit Wendelin Van Draanen's Web site at for the lastest on The Gecko and Sticky, Sammy Keyes, Shredderman, and more!

How in the world did I wind up writing a book about a kleptomaniacal, talking gecko lizard? I'm the first to admit-talking animals are not my thing. First person, realistic fiction-that's what I like. And yet, after Sticky appeared as a sidekick television character in my Shredderman series and uttered his first "Holy guaco-tacarole!" I was hooked. He's so funny. And so full of mischief.
I always develop a backstory for my characters to get to know them. Even if they're secondary characters, I have to understand their background and motivations before I let them into the story. The premise of the third Shredderman book (Meet the Gecko) is that a television crew comes to town to shoot an episode, and Shredderman helps out the star of the show. Not wanting to deal with the legal complications of using a real television show, I made up my own: The Gecko and Sticky. In the process, I came up with the hero (Dave Sanchez-a boy who has the "superpower" of being able to walk up walls, and is known as the Gecko), the sidekick (Sticky who is, as you already know, a talking gecko with . . . h'hem, sticky fingers), the villain (the deadly, diabolical, and definitely demented Damien Black), and Damien's sidekicks (the Bandito Brothers, who are, in fact, not brothers, but a thieving mariachi band).
It was definitely wilder than anything I'd come up with before, but hey-it was just a made-up TV show, right?
Ah, how diabolically infectious made-up TV shows can be!
Sticky, you see, got under my skin. His "Ay-ay-ay"s and his "What the jalapeno was that?" and his "You cut me to the quick, senor" enchanted me, and I was sorry when his role in the Shredderman books was over.
After the Shredderman quartet was complete, I began getting lots of fan mail from kids (and teachers) asking me to please write more Shredderman books. It was tempting, because I love Nolan and the gang. But I'd completed my mission with the quartet; so instead, I started writing The Gecko and Sticky.
My first attempt resulted in an over 200-page manuscript. That was closer to a Sammy Keyes novel than a Shredderman book. So I hacked it up, threw it out, and started all over.
My next try had me at 150 pages-still too long, and something about it wasn't quite right. So I chucked it and asked myself what in the world I was thinking, writing in the voice of a lizard.
But then on a flight from New York to California, I started hearing a voice. It wasn't my voice. Or the guy snoring in the seat beside me. It was, you know, a voice. One in my head.
Yeah, we writers hear them, and although we will almost certainly deny it if you press us about it, we also listen. It's how I wrote Swear to Howdy; how Bryce appeared in Flipped; where Holly's poems came from in Runaway . . . and it's how the narrator took over the storytelling for The Gecko and Sticky.
It's a man's voice in my head. (Okay, I concede that I might need some help.) But he's funny as all get-out, and I like to listen to him. He's the voice of someone who loves the art of storytelling; of someone who will hold a child's wide-eyed attention as he shares the wild antics of a boy and his mischievous gecko; of someone I'd plead, "Just one more chapter, please?"
So I hope that explains it, because I really must go. He's talking to me again and I've got to get back to Dave and Sticky. They are, after all, in the midst of some deep, diabolical doo-doo . . .

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Brandi Leigh Kosiner on February 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Running Dream is very inspirational, and I love books that make me feel, think and moves my heart.
Jessica is a great narrator- she has a concise voice, and I like how the emotion comes out in this book. It is fictional, but it all feels real. From the details, the emotions, the responses of friends and family, down to financial matters.
I love the message that comes through both Jessica and Rose- do not see the disability- see the person. I love that even though Jessica has her own physical problems, she must overcome her prejudices and notions with Rose.
This is a great story and I recommend it
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Very Merry Shakespeare on January 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
You know how it is when you wake up in the morning and have to go to work at a place that makes you ill, or you have to face down a bill collector, or spend hours in your home trying to work and take care of your child while outside your next door neighbors are playing music so loud it could wake the dead. Or maybe you can't sleep because of the aches and pains or the icy wind blowing against the window, and you wish your life could be better? I'm guilty of this; I'm guilty of cussing or crying, sighing or grumbling...but what if it was worse? What if I really had something to complain about? I don't. I get up every day on two good legs, with minor aches and pains maybe, but able to walk out the door and follow my dream. This is a book that shows us what real troubles are, and how someone can overcome the fact that they have lost the destiny that they were shooting for with their whole heart, body, mind, and soul.

Jessica Carlisle has a gift - she can run like the wind and win race after race for her team. She's so good, in fact, that she's looking at winning gold medals in the Olympics when she gets older. Not only is she good at running, she loves it. There is nothing like the power - the "whoosh" - as her feet glide across the asphalt to people cheering. In that world she is Queen; in that world everything else makes sense. After a meet one day, where she has set a record almost impossible to achieve, Jessica is sitting on the bus with her friends when the crash comes. The lights go out and when they blink back on, she's in a hospital bed.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By T. Kay on June 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Flipped, also written by Van Draanen, was the first of her works that I read. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. In addition to Flipped and The Running Dream, I've read Swear to Howdy, and The Runaway. These books are insightful and inspirational without being over the top. I teach fifth grade, and though written for older children, might read this to a more mature class.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Swank Ivy on September 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Very good book about a high school student who was a promising track athlete until she lost her leg in an accident. Jessica thinks her life is over, but help from family and friends (new and old) plus actually learning to run again with a racing prosthesis helps her turn her finish line into a new start.

The beginning was emotional and well rendered, managing to show how much running meant to Jessica by describing what it felt like to have it taken away. The chapters were short and staccato especially toward the beginning, which helped emphasize the abrupt ups and downs of her experiences. And the narration almost always did a good job of introducing people and situations without feeling like they were deliberately expository. Interestingly, the story is written in present tense and it took me a while to notice; it was just that natural. And I liked that the book was divided into sections that drew their titles from running metaphors, taking Jessica's life in micro and generalizing it to the big picture.

The only bits that felt a little fake for me were Jessica's relationship with a guy she'd had a crush on for a long time (who of course ends up actually liking her) and some of the saccharine lessons Jessica learned through befriending a girl with cerebral palsy and learning to see beyond her condition. I thought the best thing about the book was how realistically it depicted a teenage girl dealing with guilt, shame, depression, and inspiration, and how sometimes she had to re-learn things she'd already learned. I also like that not every kinda crappy, petty character in the book was magically rehabilitated at the end (because that often happens in these kinds of books, yet a couple catty girls didn't seem to learn anything), and I liked that Jessica's friends sometimes said and did the wrong things or didn't know how to feel or were selfish and imperfect, just like Jessica herself.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I really thought this story would be boring. I'm not into sports very much, and most books about sports are really boring to me. Plus, the protagonist loses one of her legs right before the story starts. And, even though I'm fascinated by amputees, I thought a book about someone dealing with being an amputee couldn't be all that exciting. And the first few chapters about Jessica, the amputee, are all about her being very depressed. I really only picked up this book because it was the shortest book on my bookshelf, and I needed a quick read.

But, after I made it through the "My life is over" chapters, I really started to enjoy this book. Jessica is grief stricken at first, and mopes around for the first few chapters. That's really understandable, but she pretty quickly starts picking up the pieces of her life and starts figuring out how to live without her leg. I learned a lot about the process of getting a prosthetic leg, and it was really cool to see Jessica adapt and grow throughout the book.

And speaking of, it's a very emotional book. I'm really glad I have a Kindle Paperwhite, because that let me read this book in almost complete darkness, without anyone seeing me crying my eyes out. But, I didn't feel like the book made any cheap emotional shots, which shows how well-written it is. This book doesn't take any emotional shortcuts, which I really liked. The book is all about real people and real emotions.

I really liked how the book paces through all of the stages of grief. This book is specifically about grief for a lost limb, but I think it's an awesome model for handling any kind of tragic event. I heartily recommend this book to everyone.
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