Review of A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games

A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games
by Lori Alexander; illus. by Allan Drummond
Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    128 pp.    g
4/20    978-1-328-58079-5    $17.99

Before Dr. Ludwig Guttmann (1899–1980), there was no treatment for a broken spine; paraplegics were deemed incurable and usually died in a matter of weeks. With clarity and immediacy, ­Alexander tells a riveting story. She ­follows Guttmann, a German Jewish ­neurologist, as he flees Nazi Germany; finds a new home in Oxford, England, where, denied a medical position, he does extensive research on the human nervous system; and finally, near the end of WWII, is assigned to a spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where he begins implementing a radical new plan of treatment for soldiers with spinal injuries. He gets them out of full-body casts, then sitting up, then out of bed, then doing strengthening exercises, and then — most radical of all — playing competitive team sports. From here, Alexander describes how Guttmann’s annual competition, the Stoke Mandeville Games, first held in 1948 with only sixteen participants, grew into the international Paralympic Games, “the third-largest sporting event in the world.” Throughout, Alexander conveys the force of Guttmann’s commanding personality as well as his fierce drive and determination not just to heal his patients but to change public perception of disabilities and disabled people. A mix of period photographs, charts, and lively and engaging pen-and-watercolor-wash illustrations by Drummond adds even more interest and appeal. Alexander concludes her account, powerfully, with brief biographies of accomplished disabled athletes competing today in sports ranging from sled hockey to wheelchair basketball to cycling. Appended with a timeline, an extensive biography, source notes, and an index (unseen).

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more