Most people think that it's always the librarian suggesting the book to the students. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any librarian worth the books they shelve knows that true gem titles and authors are often found right in the hands of the students. Such was the case last week when I was approached by a wonderful sophomore girl who said she didn't really dig sports books, but knew I did, and thought I might like this guy named Josh Sundquist.
I had never heard of him. But she was so passionate about him, I couldn't help but be moved. I asked her to bring in her personal titles of his, and I did some research myself in the meantime. Am I ever glad I did, because sometimes, you never know what you're missing!
Josh Sundquist is truly an inspiring character, and for that I have chosen him for my Thanksgiving week post. Josh's bio reads that
"At age nine Josh Sundquist was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and given a fifty percent chance to live. He spent a year on chemotherapy treatments and his left leg was amputated. Doctors declared Josh cured of the disease at age thirteen and he took up ski racing three years later. He trained for the next six years and in 2006 he was named to the US Paralympic Ski Team for the 2006 Paralympics in Turino, Italy."
While Just Don't Fall is mainly the telling of his life story, Josh also has two other titles. We Should Hang Out Sometime is another memoir filled with coming of age anecdotes, and Love and First Sight is a work of coming of age fiction. Both are filled with the same introspective humor and observations of living a life with a disability. All of Josh's works are not only thoughtful, but hopeful.
Sports is full of heroes who have overcome disabilities or other personal obstacles. Frankly, it's all part of what makes sports stories so endearing. There's just something about athletes that gives them tools to take lemons and make lemonade. Josh's story is compelling because he obviously has not let physical barriers impede his quest to live a full life. After the amputation, Josh chooses to not only live life to the fullest, but push the envelope. He takes up downhill skiing, which I can attest is hard enough to do with 2 good legs. Within 6 years, he's on the US Paralympic Ski team!
When I talked to Jessica about what made the book about Josh so special to her, it had nothing to do with sports. She talked about his courage, his sense of humor when dealing with his disability, his perseverance, his hipness (she showed me his cool youtube videos), his honesty, and his ability to motivate. He could've been a hang glider for all she cared.
The mark of a good book is to see the "stars" in the reader's eyes when you talk to them about the book. It's not just knowing the details, it's knowing the meaning. It's not just knowing the accomplishments, it's understanding the struggle to achieve them. It's not just that the completed book becomes a memory, it is that there is a motivation to carry the message forward.
Josh's books succeed because they inspire. I am getting all of them for my high school library, and everyone else should as well. When I get a teen coming up to me with a must-read recommendation, there's something that's clearly working! Josh undoubtedly has a great story, and a voice that speaks to teens, which is truly something to be thankful for. Live life to the fullest, be thankful for what you DO have, and don't be afraid to laugh at yourself a little. Not bad advice for any teen(or middle aged librarian)! Happy Thanksgiving!