The Polio Pioneer

by Linda Elovitz Marshall (Author) Lisa Anchin (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Learn about the importance of vaccines and the scientific process through the fascinating life of world-renowned scientist Jonas Salk, whose pioneering discoveries changed the world forever.

Dr. Jonas Salk is one of the most celebrated doctors and medical researchers of the 20th century. The child of immigrants who never learned to speak English, Jonas was struck by the devastation he saw when the soldiers returned from battle after WWII. Determined to help, he worked to become a doctor and eventually joined the team that created the influenza vaccine. But Jonas wanted to do more. As polio ravaged the United States--even the president was not immune!--Jonas decided to lead the fight against this terrible disease. In 1952, Dr. Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine, which nearly eliminated polio from this country. For the rest of his life, Dr. Salk continued to do groundbreaking medical research at the Salk Institute, leaving behind a legacy that continues to make the world a better place every day.

This compelling picture book biography sheds light on Dr. Salk's groundbreaking journey and the importance of vaccination.

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School Library Journal

Gr 1-5—This timely picture book biography describes the life and scientific contributions of Dr. Jonas Salk (1914-1995). A sensitive, studious child, Salk was born in New York City to poor Eastern European Jewish refugee parents. He attended the City College of New York and later studied medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, where he met his mentor and friend, Dr. Thomas Francis. Together, they collaborated on the first flu vaccine in response to the 1918 pandemic. Their hard work paid off; their vaccine was a success. Years later, Salk created a vaccine for polio, a disease that "paralyzed or killed thousands of people every year, including many babies and small children." For several years, communities closed swimming pools, beaches, and movie theaters to manage the spread...sound familiar? Almost two million youngsters, dubbed "Polio Pioneers," voluntarily took the new vaccine before it was deemed safe and effective. On April 12, 1955, Salk announced the vaccine's success to the world. Anchin's colorful illustrations are rendered in acrylic gouache and pencil. Children and scientists of diverse skin colors, religions (both a yarmulke and hijab are shown), and genders are depicted. One page features children in their homes looking out the windows at empty streets. Marshall's author's note offers a personal reflection on the polio years. VERDICT A recommended purchase for most libraries. This title explains how vaccines work, provides historical context, and inspires the hope of a victory over the current pandemic.—Barbara Auerbach, Cairo P.L., NY

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Timely, quickly paced. . . . An exciting, informative introduction to medical research." —Kirkus Reviews

"Gently cheerful. . . . The message that a solution was found to a disease outbreak before is a reassuring one, and kids may wish to learn more about Dr. Salk." —The Bulletin
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date
August 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JNF025210 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | United States/20th Century
JNF007090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Science & Technology
JNF051050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Science & Nature | Biology
Library of Congress categories
United States
Salk, Jonas
Poliomyelitis vaccine

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