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In the summer of 1937 life on the Prairies is not easy The Great Depression has brought great hardship and young Noreen’s family must scrimp to make ends meetIn a horrible twist of fate Noreen like hundreds of other young Canadians contracts polio and is placed in an isolation ward unable to move her legs After a few weeks she gains partial recovery but her family makes the painful decision to send her to a hospital far away for further treatment To Stand On My Own is Noreen’s diary account of her journey through recovery her treatment; life in the ward; the other patients some of them far worse off than her; adjustment to life in a wheelchair and on crutches; and ultimately the emotional and physical hurdles she must face when she returns home In this moving addition to the Dear Canada series award winning author Barbara Haworth Attard recreates a desolate time in Canadian history and one girl’s brave fight against a deadly disease


10 thoughts on “To Stand On My Own

  1. says:

    Maybe I should be reading those Dear Canada series books I have not already read or I should review the ones I have read and not yet reviewed but last night I felt only like rereading To Stand On My Own The Polio Diary of Noreen Robertson as it is one of my favourites thus far of this series and I simply needed to reread a favourite bookNow Dear Canada series has without a doubt become one of my favourite series of Canadian children's historical fiction period Conceptualised and presented as historical diaries these books not only present and portray interesting often thought provoking historical episodes and facts pertaining to Canada's past they generally also feature both charming and believable historically authentic characters both the narrators themselves the diarists but also the individuals described by the former I have to date read a goodly number of these fictionalised diaries and I am kind of obsessive about collecting the entire series and while there are certainly some that I have enjoyed than others I can honestly say that of the books in the Dear Canada series I have read so far I would not hesitate to strongly recommend the majority of them The series manages to be both historically interesting and informative while at the same time showing the observations joys tragedies and triumphs of the young diarists in an engaging emotionally realistic and believable fashion; these are not dry historical documents but engaging and emotional stories of hope and despair of triumph and tragedy An added bonus of this series are the historical notes documents and photographs that are included at the back of each of the diaries making this series not only a wonderful reading experience and in my opinion for both children and adults but also providing interesting and valuable historical documentation and facts This makes Dear Canada not only a wonderful series for anyone interested in Canadian history andor historical fiction it also makes this series a wonderful and informative teaching resource for both homeschooling as well as elementary and middle grade history or social studies classesBarbara Haworth Attard's To Stand On My Own is one of the recent publications in the Dear Canada series and has rapidly become one of my very favourites An engaging at times emotionally wrenching but in the end triumphant account of twelve year old Noreen Robertson's struggle with polio this diary novel also provides valuable historical background information on both the polio epidemic of 1937 and the devastating effects of the Great Depression especially the devastation caused by the Dust Bowl droughts on a primarily agricultural province like Saskatchewan a province hit worse than other provinces because farming was the main livelihood for mostNow mreally the author has managed to totally and engagingly capture the voice of Noreen of a young girl struggling with a disease that she cannot fully understand but all the same realising that polio might prove fatal knowing it could well leave her with permanent physical challenges And with this in mind Noreen's diary account truly reads like the diary of a child; one never has the impression as though one is simply reading Barbara Haworth Attard's attempt to appear andor sound like a twelve year old girl Noreen's narrative feels and reads as one hundred percent authentic I was and still am completely immersed in this story personally feeling Noreen's emotions her pain her fears her doubts her anger her frustrations and finally her triumphs and joys as well as those of many of the other characters described by Noreen in her diary To Stand On My Own will make you cry laugh cheery wildly as well as exclaim in anger and frustration You will fall in love with the characters and care immensely about Noreen and her friends at the Regina hospital you will scream happily when Edna is finally able to move her fingers and arms you will simply hate the fact that Thelma's parents abandoned her when she became ill you will feel as proud as Noreen when she is finally able to walk down the hall using her crutches And finally To Stand On My Own will also make readers appreciate how fortunate most of the world is today how because of the devastating polio epidemics of the early and middle 20th Century we now have the ways and means to prevent this dread disease we now have vaccinations and better treatment options


  2. says:

    This diary was a historical fiction account of a young girl diagnosed with polio in Saskatoon in 1937 My Nanna was diagnosed with polio in Regina in the 1940s The little girl in the book received treatment at the Regina hospital It was really interesting to read about this girl's experience and compare it to what I knew of my Nanna's experience with the disease This diary is part of the Dear Canada series and I definitely want to read A quick read very realistic and very informative I don't know which one to choose next?


  3. says:

    At the suggestion of her mother Noreen Robertson begins a diary in June 1937 shortly before her twelfth birthday The Robertson family lives in Saskatchewan where most people are struggling financially as a result of the Great Depression There is also the worry of a polio epidemic Noreen thinks her mother is being overprotective during the epidemic until Noreen herself becomes ill with polioNoreen began her diary reluctantly but during her recovery from polio writing is one of the few things she can still do She writes about her stay in the hospital her fears of never being able to walk again her return home and the month she spends at a hospital with a special physical therapy program that tries to help children recovering from polio learn to walk againAt first I found this book a bit slow moving A lot of it was just Noreen feeling sorry for herself feeling guilty for not listening to her mother wondering if she was being punished etc I suppose her self pity was realistic since it would be awful to be twelve years old and be told you would probably never walk again I did eventually enjoy the book and Noreen's character grew and matured and in the end she decided to focus on the good things that happened as a result of her experiences rather than the bad and how she could use what she had learned to help others like herself in the future


  4. says:

    I went to the library a few days ago and after a gander at the young adult section I quickly came to realize i was sick of reading the same fantasy romance book which feature the same hopeless love triangle I needed a change I decided that something new bare and 'out of my comfort zone' should do the job So after heading to the childrens' section I quickly came upon this bookand i loved it I was a little skeptical at first but went with it anyways in the end I was acutally working on a major project at that time and still had made very little progress i'm a helpless procastinator i know shame on me but after I finished the book 2 days I realized that at the end under the title 'Famous people who had polio' Arthur C Clarke's name was printed at the very bottom I nearly fell off my chair I was doing a porject on that author and needed to find some extras other interesting information YAY I'm going to include this book and maybe bring it in for a class presentation Yay I'm going to encourgae others to read this and get a good mark Yay This book is truly awesomeExcuse any mis spelt words I wrote this in a rush and goodreads dosen't have spellcheck


  5. says:

    This was an exceptionally GREAT diary; I thoroughly enjoyed it Quite often I find that these girls are too goody goody or make maybe two mistakes total I still love them as characters but I find them harder to relate to In this story Noreen is actually a bully a couple of times and finds it hard to apologize and in fact puts it off I found her to be a much realistic character in that respect as she has personal problems that she manages to work out and as a result of the polio she actually becomes a better person and friend That being said I also found this diary particularly informative I learned much about polio and the history of past epidemics than I knew before I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good historical stand alone fiction


  6. says:

    My 10 year old self Life is definatley not easy on the praries at least in 1937 The Great Depression is a hard learning experience and Noreen as well as her family must skimp in order to survive It makes it even harder when Noreen like many others at that time catches polio After long thought and disscution it is agreed that Noreen was to be shipped off into another hospital She longs to get better so that her legs would work again and so she could stand on her own Borrow this book It is at the edge of the four star to being a fiveThat spelling #perf


  7. says:

    I have been supporting the elimination of Polio with Rotary the last few years I really appreciated this perspective of what it was like in Canada before the disease was eradicated here Very informative


  8. says:

    This is my favourite Dear Canada Noreen's character arc is well defined and rewarding to read


  9. says:

    Amazing


  10. says:

    This book was actually shorter than I would have liked it to be It could have been longer in my humble opinionThe year is 1937 Summer in Saskatchewan Smack dab near the middle of the Great Depression I think might need to brush up on my historical timelines Noreen is our narrator forced to spend 30 minutes a day with her diary because her mother worries she is becoming too much of a tomboy Noreen enjoys climbing trees biking with her brother and friends snowball fights swimming and many other things Not all of these are considered proper for a young lady Fortunately Noreen's father still has a job though his hours are reduced so her family can afford to keep their house and food on the table without the use of the government Relief program Noreen's older brother is sent away to a relative's farm in Alberta to work thereby giving a bit of relief to their parents by having one less mouth to feed Noreen's mother is paranoid about her children potentially catching polio which is running rampant through the city's youth population It even gets so bad that several schools decide to open late in the year to help protect its students Noreen and her brother are forbidden from going to any crowded place including the swimming pool So Noreen and her brother disobey and sneak into the pool claiming they are too poor to pay Not far into the book Noreen finds she can't use her legs and is in terrible pain The doctor is called and she is diagnosed with polio She is whisked away to the hospital by her parents where you get a first hand look of what a polio ward would be like Noreen can't use her legs She is strapped into leg braces to keep her from getting drop foot and is given something in an attempt to make sure the virus doesn't spread In the bed beside her is a boy who struggles to breathe because polio has paralyzed parts of his chest He is later transported to a hospital where he is placed in an iron lung An older lady across the aisle from them passes away Once Noreen is deemed noncontagious she is sent home where her condition doesn't improve and her grandfather fights with her mother about her treatments Finally her mother and father agree to send her away to a hospital in Saskatoon I think where they try to rehabilitate people struck by polio For 3 or 4 weeks Noreen stays there in a room with 3 other girls Edna is almost completely paralyzed by polio and spends her days strapped to a board to keep her muscles from pulling too far out of place Thelma is like Noreen unable to use her legs But unlike Noreen she doesn't seem to be driven to recover It is later discovered why Noreen accidentally gives Thelma a reason to want to be better during a conversation which is quite inspiring there is also Juliathink it was Julia She is not written about as muchWhat's interesting is that Noreen gives a pretty detailed description of all the exercises and treatments she goes through to help her get back some of her mobility She gives you the general schedule at which she and the other girls live by while in hospital While all of this might sound boring it's actually pretty interesting You also get invested in her friends as she describes their individual hardships and the friendships they develop with each other You cheer right along with them when Edna is finally able to move her fingers It's a small thing but symbolizes hope for her You also get to experience the failures of others like Thelma who has to have her tendons cut in her ankle in order to relieve the pain of her drop foot which is partially due to the fact she refused to do her recommended therapies Heck you even get to see the boy from the first ward again now in an iron lung in the very same hospital that is trying to rehabilitate NoreenWhile most of this book obviously takes place in hospital it does give you a glimpse of Noreen's life once she returns home and her decision to continue getting stronger with hopes of walking without leg braces once again This book's diary entries end on a very hopefully note However the epilogue and historical notes give you a gloomy outlook like how polio almost strikes again when the victims grow older Despite everything Noreen did she ended up using crutches again when she was much older and eventually went back into using a wheelchair for mobility The boy in the iron lung made a partial recovery only to die in his 30s I think due to his compromised lungs Sure they are fictional characters but you grow attached to them and any reader will surely realize that while these particular people are fictional there are real people who had very similar experiences and that's heartbreakingIt's great to put into prospective what an unchecked disease can do to people especially when people are doing stupid things nowadays like refusing to vaccinate their children against completely preventable yet deadly diseases because of some outdated and disproved studies say it's bad Herd immunity doesn't work when parts of the herd the can be vaccinated aren't vaccinated Epidemics like this can be completely avoidedAnyhow I quite liked this book and would have loved if it was a bit longer