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Young Adult Fiction Diseases, Illnesses & Injuries

Second Chances

by (author) Harriet Zaidman

Red Deer Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Diseases, Illnesses & Injuries, Canada
Recommended Age
13 to 16
Recommended Grade
8 to 11
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Thirteen-year-old Dale Melnyk finds himself stuck in an iron lung, desperately fighting for breath — and wishing he could die. It is the worst outbreak of polio in the history of Winnipeg, and Dale is one of the many young victims being treated in the early 1950s.

Second Chances follows Dale's slow and often agonizing struggle to regain his life, first of all to breathe on his own and then to regain the use of his limbs. Will he ever be able to play hockey again, he wonders? Dale comes to realize that he is doing better than a number of the other patients including Charlene, a young M�tis girl confined to a wheelchair but always trying to help their fellow patients.

When Dale discovers his younger brother Brent is also in the polio ward because their father rejected the school program vaccine, a confrontation with his father becomes inevitable. Brent is not getting better and will be dealing with paralysis indefinitely.

When Dale finally emerges from his recovery he must reassess what is most important in life — a life that has been changed forever.

About the author

Harriet Zaidman
Is an author and former teacher-librarian who writes for CM: Review of Materials and The Winnipeg Free Press. Harriet lives in Winnipeg.

Harriet Zaidman's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Zaidman's strength is her attention to the details of mid-century polio treatment and recovery, including the specialized equipment, accommodations made for kids on the polio wards, and the public's enormous fear of the disease that caused further hardships for those who were already suffering. Extensive back matter offers further information about polio, touches on Zaidman's extensive research into this era and disease, and includes an interview with the author. . . Today's readers will appreciate the historical parallels to Covid.
Highly Recommended"
CM Magazine

"Second Chances is a meticulously researched novel, including fascinating details about the 1950s polio outbreak, the Metis community of Rooster Town in Winnipeg, news reporting, and NHL and local hockey. Dale is a wonderfully flawed yet caring protagonist who learns to stand up for his beliefs and follow his heart. With obvious connections to current events, Second Chances will encourage conversations about fact versus fiction in relation to vaccines and the impact of historical racism on people of Indigenous and Metis heritage. A detailed teacher's guide offers curriculum connections. A highly satisfying and timely read."
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