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Children's Fiction General

The Giant-Slayer

by (author) Iain Lawrence

Random House Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Nov 2009
General, 20th Century
Recommended Age
8 to 12
Recommended Grade
3 to 7
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2012
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2009
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.


A girl’s imagination transports polio-afflicted kids into a fantastic world.

The spring of 1955 tests Laurie Valentine’s gifts as a storyteller. After her friend Dickie contracts polio and finds himself confined to an iron lung, Laurie visits him in the hospital. There she meets Carolyn and Chip, two other kids trapped inside the breathing machines. Laurie’s first impulse is to flee, but Dickie begs her to tell them a story. And so Laurie begins her tale of Collosso, a rampaging giant, and Jimmy, a tiny boy whose destiny is to become a slayer of giants.

As Laurie embellishes her tale with gnomes, unicorns, gryphons, and other fanciful creatures, Dickie comes to believe that he is a character in her story. Little by little Carolyn, Chip, and other kids who come to listen, recognize counterparts as well. Laurie’s tale is so powerful that when she’s prevented from continuing it, Dickie, Carolyn, and Chip take turns as narrators. Each helps bring the story of Collosso and Jimmy to an end—changing the lives of those in the polio ward in startling ways.

From the Hardcover edition.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Iain Lawrence is the author of numerous novels. He lives on Gabriola Island, British Columbia.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Review, The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2009:
"Young Readers...will not quickly forget this moving, imaginative glimpse of the not-so-long ago past."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 16, 2009:
"Distinctive, emotionally honest characters and consistently engrossing prose make this book a standout."

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 16, 2009:
"This profound, magical, dryly comical novel reminds readers of the power of story, but they will already be feeling it in their bones. Masterful."

From the Hardcover edition.

Librarian Reviews

The Giant-Slayer

In 1955, Laurie Valentine’s only friend Dickie is stricken with polio, a crippling disease affecting many children. In order to cheer up Dickie and the other patients in his hospital ward, she begins to tell a story about a giant-slayer named Jimmy. Soon, each of the children begins to unleash their imaginations, taking turns as narrator and changing not only the lives of those in the story, but their own.

The strength of this novel is undoubtedly Iain Lawrence’s ability to create two believable worlds – the world of the 1950s polio epidemics and Jimmy’s fantasy world. Both stories could exist separately and still retain their depth but, by weaving them together, Lawrence invites us on a skilfully textured journey.

The characters of the children in the polio ward are revealed to us with subtlety; we observe their personalities through the reactions to their illness. A well-executed narrative device is then used to explore the children’s deepest feelings. In order to reveal their dreams and fears, Lawrence draws parallels to the characters of the fantasy realm. In fact, the real and fantasy worlds become so interwoven that the children begin to believe that they are the characters in the story.

The Giant-Slayer is both a rollicking adventure and a sensitive portrait of friendship, survival and the power of imagination. This book would be excellent to read aloud and discuss in a classroom setting.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2010. Vol.33 No.2.

The Giant-Slayer

As Laurie visits the children in the polio unit, she weaves them a tale about Colosso, the rampaging giant, and Jimmy, a tiny boy whose destiny is to become the giant-slayer. While Laurie embellishes the tale with gnomes, unicorns, gryphons and other fanciful creatures, the children all begin to recognize their counterparts in the story. Eventually the children take over as narrators, changing their lives in startling ways.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2011.

Other titles by Iain Lawrence