Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret

Review by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, our newest regular contributor!

The homecoming parade (and the 7th grade float that was sure to win first prize) was all that mattered to Peg Schulze on that September day in 1949. But then she collapsed at school and was sent to the hospital for testing.

The diagnosis – polio.

There are 3 kinds of polio and Peg soon learned that she had all of them. First she lost the use of her muscles and was paralyzed from the neck down. Then she began to experience difficulty with breathing. And from there, things only got worse as she discovered she also had bulbar polio which affects a person’s ability to swallow or talk.

For days, an iron lung stood at the ready in case she could no longer breathe on her own. For more than a week, she could not eat. But Peg was a determined gal with strong family support. Their intervention and a chocolate milkshake probably saved her life.

In Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, Peg recalls the particulars of her illness and the difficult road to recovery. The reader is impressed with the role of family who sustained, not only her, but also her hospital roommates.

In the end it was these friends who understood more powerfully than anyone what she endured.

This memoir informs, moves, and inspires its reader. The language is succinct and the story is compelling. Published in 1996, this book will be appreciated for many years because it serves important functions. It reminds us of the polio years. It validates the stories of so many individuals who had polio. And it opens the eyes of those who have not!

But don’t think of it in useful terms. Think of it as a page turner because that’s exactly what it is!


  1. Hi Joyce! I am also a regular contributor! I just requested Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio at my library. I loved your review! Keep up the good work!

  2. I just finished this book! I loved it! Thank you so much for this review! This is one of the best books I've read lately. Keep the reviews coming!


  3. Hi Allana,

    Emily just forwarded your latest comment to me. I apologize for not responding to your first one. I didn't realize it was here.

    Thanks for letting me know that you liked Small Steps. It was one of the many books that helped me to understand polio so I could write about it in BLUE.

    Peg Kehret has written lots of fiction also. I plan to interview her for Clean Reads.

    Would love to hear from you via email.

  4. My students enjoy Peg Kehret's adventure books, so I was quite interested in this book when I ran across about a year and a half ago. I enjoyed it, and it's been fun sharing it with my students.

    Glad you brought it to people's attention.