Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A SPORTING CHANCE by Lori  Alexander Kirkus Star


How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games

by Lori Alexander ; illustrated by Allan Drummond

Pub Date: April 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-328-58079-5
Publisher: HMH Books

Alexander chronicles how Jewish doctor Ludwig Guttmann became “the founding father of the Paralympic Games.”

In 1917, with World War I underway, Guttmann graduated from high school and became an orderly in Germany’s National Emergency Services, where he met a paralyzed coal miner with a grim prognosis: “Dead in six weeks.” For decades, paralyzed patients’ futures remained bleak. In 1939, after courageously resisting the rising Nazi regime, Guttmann—by then a neurologist—escaped to England. In 1944 he established his Spinal Injuries Center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where bedridden “incurables” languished. Guttmann, however, resolved to rescue them from “the human scrapheap,” developing innovative treatments and encouraging self-sufficiency. Noting that playing such sports as wheelchair archery and basketball both “brought passion and fun back into patients’ lives” and improved their health, he realized that public competitions would also show nondisabled people that patients were “more than their injuries.” Through Guttmann’s tireless advocacy, a 1948 archery competition on Stoke Mandeville’s lawn evolved into the Paralympic Games, currently the world’s third-largest sporting event. The author explores Guttmann’s career in thorough medical and historical detail; diagrams and text boxes supplement discussions of everything from the nervous system to Nazi atrocities, enabling readers to fully appreciate his efforts. Alongside archival photographs, Drummond’s color cartoon illustrations extend the straightforward text. Profiles of contemporary Paralympians provide an inspiring epilogue. Most photographed figures, including Guttmann, appear White; one contemporary athlete presents Black.

Informative, engaging, and important.

(timeline, bibliography, notes, index) (Biography. 8-12)