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Learning about polio in local history

 

Patricia Kindley (right) assists local author Joyce Hostetter in demonstrating how an iron lung works at Love Memorial Elementary School on Tuesday.

 

Author visits Love Memorial

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

Students at Love Memorial Elementary School in Lincolnton came face-to-face on Tuesday with an author whose book they recently read.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter, author of the book “Blue,” spoke to and signed books for fourth- and fifth-grade students during her visit to the school.

Love Memorial Media Specialist Jennifer Gibson said all fourth- and fifth-grade classes read “Blue” together in advance of the presentation.

The book, which was published in 2006 by Calkins Creek Books and has won several awards, is on the 2011-2012 North Carolina Battle of the Books List for the elementary level. It is an historical-fiction novel set during a polio outbreak in the state in the 1940s.

Hostetter, who lives in Hickory and is a former teacher, told students she got the idea for the book from a homework assignment she had as part of a history-writing workshop.

Through her research, she discovered that an emergency polio hospital was created in Hickory in just three days following an outbreak of the disease in 1944. The hospital became known as the “Miracle of Hickory.”

During her presentation to students, Hostetter discussed her research process, the effects polio had on people and the book’s characters and themes. She also demonstrated how “iron lungs” were used to help victims of the disease breath.

In an effort to show how difficult it would be to lose the use of a limb, she had student volunteers attempt to write their names with their nondominant hands. Additionally, in providing a visual, she showed the students old video clips and photographs of patients from the time.

In response to one question from a student on why she chose to write about a girl instead of a boy, Hostetter said she selected her female protagonist, named Ann Fay Honeycutt, because she “liked the idea of a strong woman as the man of the house.”

Fourth-grader Gavin Isreal said his class started reading the book in January and that he didn’t know a lot about polio beforehand.

He added that he liked the book because of a character named Polio Pete, a faithful dog who followed a character named Bobby to the hospital when he was struck with the disease.

Hostetter said she came up with the idea for the storyline from an old newspaper clipping.

“It was a story I really wanted to tell,” she noted.

 

Image courtesy of Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News

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