Kathryn Lasky’s “Chasing Orion” is the moving story of Georgie, who is obsessed with reading the stats every morning on how many polio cases have been identified, and her new neighbor, Phyllis, who lives in an iron lung, due to getting the disease.
The story, set in one of the hottest summers in Indiana in 1952, removes Georgie from her old neighborhood, her good friends, and life as she knew it. There is no going to the pool, camp, or even the theatre because everyone is afraid of polio spreading.
When she hears the rhythmic hum and sees the glinting metal in her neighbor’s yard, she ventures over to have a peek at the actual iron lung. Even enclosed in this machinery, Phyllis is glamorous and worldly. She nicknames Georgie as “St. George,” but there’s more to Phyllis than meets the eye.
Luckily, Georgie can share her confusion over things she doesn’t understand with a new friend she has made. Evelyn, who is slightly odd and a super-genius, has an odd family, but one that cares deeply for one another. Their scenes of secret phone calls, food adventures, and what to call Evelyn’s mom are entertaining and lighten the story.
When Georgie’s brother becomes involved with Phyllis, Georgie begins to wonder how far is too far? It’s her concern, played out in her dreams, that brings this book to a riveting conclusion.