Review: The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine

The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Lisa Anchin

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield

The world has been fighting polio for centuries. Back in the 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk worked tirelessly to create a vaccine that would one day eradicate the polio virus from the world. Even today, the World Health Organization just announced that Africa is now free from the wild polio virus.

This interesting and well-researched book describes Dr. Salk from his boyhood in an immigrant Jewish family to his becoming a doctor and inventing the polio vaccine. With detailed, clear writing and charming pictures, the story is one of focused effort and lasting success. There are many lessons to be learned here about the current COVID-19 pandemic the world is facing, and the search for a vaccine to eliminate it.

This is an excellent book that has all the trappings of an award winner: a great story based in Jewish values-education, kindness, mitzvot/doing good deeds, and tikkun olam/repairing the world, along with well-researched highlights from Dr. Salk’s life. The illustrations accompanying the story give an excellent look into Jonas Salk’s life as a child in a Jewish family, along with his work to discover a vaccine for influenza and then for polio. Back matter includes pictures of letters from children thanking Dr. Salk for the vaccine, as well as a list of sources and interviews.

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Reviewer Kathy Bloomfield is the President of the Association of Jewish Libraries. She is working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic to upgrade her long dormant website, She lives in Seal Beach, CA.