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A Book to Inspire: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

January 12, 2011

Random House Children’s Books publishes and sells books seasonally – Spring, Summer & Fall – and each season my colleagues and I get together to pick one book that we are all unanimously crazy about.  We call this book our “Rep Pick”.  Admittedly, this is a hard task not only because we publish so many great books but also because we all have unique tastes.  However, this season the selection process was an easy one.  The book we chose is written by a prolific and versatile writer of children’s books – her repertoire includes the Sammy Keyes series, the Shredderman series, Flipped, Confessions of a Serial Kisser, among others – and its touching story and inspiring message worked their way into each of our hearts.  It’s called The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen.  This post is chock-full of information about author and novel (on sale yesterday 1/11/11), so please read on!  You can also visit Wendelin’s blog for more on her books. And click here to watch the book trailer.

We would love to share this book with you. If you leave a comment, you will be entered into a drawing to win a finished copy of the book. And if you link to this post on Twitter or Facebook and leave a second comment telling us where you linked, you will be entered twice!

Here is a wonderful letter from Wendelin’s editor, Nancy Siscoe, which sums up why Wendelin and The Running Dream are both awesome and inspiring…

What inspires you?

Our sales reps were so inspired by Wendelin Van Draanen’s new novel the Running Dream that they unanimously chose it as their rep pick of the season! I hope that you and your teen and tween readers will be just as excited and inspired.

I am inspired by Wendelin herself. I pulled her first book out of the slush pile fifteen years ago, and I’ve since learned that Wendelin is a big dreamer and a woman of action. She’s a let’s-just-try-it-and-see kind of girl. She can live with failure. But she must try. Here’s an example: While visiting schools around the country, Wendelin saw that budgets for libraries were being slashed. She also saw that many kids weren’t getting the exercise they needed. So she and her husband dreamed up a school fundraiser called Exercise the Right to Read that would get kids reading and running and raise money for their libraries. Five years later, dozens of schools in more than thirty-seven states have participated. She saw a need and found a way to help.

So what inspires Wendelin? It was while running the New York City marathon (to help launch Exercise the Right to Read) that Wendelin got the inspiration for this book. She was amazed by some of the other runners. She saw many people with disabilities, people in wheel chairs, blind people…. She’d been thinking that just crossing the finish line would be an achievement—and it is!—but those people were contending with so much more than she was. And she knew she wanted to write about a character like that. Someone who could face a tragedy or a hardship and come up with the strength to not just survive, but triumph.

And so we have Jessica and The Running Dream. On the surface it’s the story of a runner who loses a leg in an accident. But really it’s about hope. And perseverance. And having the courage to dream big, even when the odds seem stacked against you.

Wendelin and I have worked together on so many wonderful books. Don’t ask me for a favorite, I could never pick just one. But I think that this book, more than any other, shows you Wendelin Van Draanen’s great big beating heart.

You know the phrase, Be the change you want to see in the world? Wendelin lives that. And she writes it too—in The Running Dream.

And here are a few amazing early reviews of the book:

This heart-touching story is a helpful reminder that we must appreciate each day and each blessing. When I go around ‘Rigor Mortis Bend’ and think of Jessica, my legs do not feel nearly as tired anymore.

—Jordan Hasay, three-time USA Track & Field Junior Women’s Champion, 1500m, 2007–2010

I felt as if this wonderful young woman was sitting right next to me telling me the story of her year of discovery—her journey of frustration, loss, friendship, laughter, and enlightenment. Running is something you do from your heart.

—Anthony Edwards, award-winning actor, runner, and chairman of Shoe4Africa

The real magic of The Running Dream is not just the conquest of one individual over a physical limitation. It is the collective good an athletic team can do for themselves, their teammates, and their community. I would certainly recommend The Running Dream to any high school athlete, regardless of the sport.

—Ken Reeves, teacher and coach for 35 years, 2-time National High School Cross Country Coach of the Year, 11-time California State Championship Team Coach, 14-time CIF Southern Section Championship Team Coach

We all have obstacles in our lives. How we face those obstacles and strive on is the measure of a champion. Jessica’s story is more about that triumph than winning any race.

—Greg Sarkisian, teacher and coach for 34 years, 24 CIF Individual Champions

The pace of Van Draanen’s prose matches Jessica’s at her swiftest. Readers will zoom through the book just as Jessica blazes around the track. A lively and lovely story.

—Kirkus Reviews

Van Draanen is back to what she does best, realistic fiction with characters we love! Jessica may have lost her leg in a terrible accident, but she finds her heart, and much much more in the following weeks. Van Draanen shows all how to keep on dreaming.

–Margaret Brennan Neville at King’s English

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen takes us into the five stages of grief through the experience of sixteen-year-old Jessica, a track runner who loses her right leg in a tragic accident. The book is broken up into five parts, each titled to represent the sport Jessica loves and how she moves through her own grief. Through Jessica’s inner monologue, readers experience her shock and anxiety about the future. Helping them either cope with their own personal tragedies or understand what someone else may be going through.

Van Draaenen shows readers that courage is facing reality and making tough situations work. Even if the issue is more about being open-minded about differences. In Part 2: Headwind, Jessica finally faces her fear of returning to school, and finds that not only has losing a limb changed her physically, but socially as well. She finds out who her true friends are and some she never considered before. In one moving scene, Jessica is asked to sit in the back of the classroom with a special needs student, Rosa. She’d never considered Rosa before and now finds herself exchanging notes with her new deskmate. Rosa we learn has cerebral palsy and has been mostly wheelchair bound her entire life. When she asks about the new leg Jessica will receive she exclaims that Jessica is “SO LUCKY!” This causes Jessica to shift her mindset: “I suddenly really get that I am lucky. I’ll never do a fifty-five flat in the 400 again, but I will stand on my own again.”

The Running Dream is a beautiful, touching story that will leave you feeling inspired.

— Brandi Stewart, Children’s Book Buyer at Changing Hands Bookstore

The Running Dream is full of determination and hope and, surprisingly, lots of humor. The voice is so authentic, the story reads just like a real memoir by a teen girl adjusting to adversity. This is a book you won’t soon forget.

–Joanne R. Fritz at Chester County Book & Music Company

I finished The Running Dream this weekend and just think it is incredible. It is one of the most positive books I have read lately and I can hardly wait for it to release. I put my ARC on Bethany’s bed for her to read over Thanksgiving. It is a book that makes me proud to be human and affirms the fundamental desire we each have to live out our dreams and to make that possible for all those around us. While life throws us curves and each of us must face obstacles along our life’s journey, Jessica’s personal determination to run again and to focus on what she can do is an inspiration. Moreover, her disability does not make her self-centered but opens her eyes to the struggle that those with handicaps face to not be defined solely by them. Wow, what a book!

–Cindy Brewer at Cardinal Lane Bookfairs

Wendelin is on a five city tour to support this book right now, so if you live in or near Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle or San Francisco, please click here to see which stores she will be visiting!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2011 3:15 pm

    I love Wendelin’s books and her spirit! I miss living in Chicago only for the reason it was a great place to connect with author’s. Thanks for making such a great pick.

  2. January 13, 2011 2:50 am

    This is a book I must have!

  3. Brooke permalink
    January 14, 2011 7:32 am

    I love Wendelin Van Draanen, and I’d love to win a copy of The Running Dream. Thanks so much!

  4. January 26, 2011 11:08 pm

    This book helped my teenage daughter understand what it is like for me being an amputee. Thank you Wendelin

  5. Caradith Craven permalink
    February 26, 2011 1:26 am

    I was so touched and inspired after reading an ARC of The Running Dream that I convinced our administration and faculty to make it our middle school’s first “All-School Read.” The theme we placed on bulletin boards, posters, and t-shirts is: “ONE SCHOOL…ONE BOOK…ONE DREAM…THE RUNNING DREAM”. We purchased 200 hardback copies and started reading it the first five minutes every day in every classroom; and the response from faculty, staff, students, and parents has been overwhelming. This book has empowered, encouraged, motivated, and bonded our entire school community. Thanks to Wendelin for writing it and to Random House for publishing such a powerful, unforgettable story that profoundly impacts the lives of its readers.

  6. Erin permalink
    February 27, 2011 7:37 pm

    So sorry for the delay on this, everyone! I drew a random number for the finished copy and it is Nancy Taylor. Nancy, I’ll send an e-mail for your address.

    Thanks so much to all of you for the comments. This really is a special book and we’re so happy it is so inspiring to readers. Caradith, your comment is amazing! Thanks so much for your efforts to get the book read!

  7. July 5, 2011 1:55 pm

    I LOVED this book. I am a Grandmother and I love YA books. This is one of the best I’ve read in a while. So inspirational and I’m not a runner either. I love the way Wendelin writes. I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.

  8. Kelsee permalink
    August 8, 2011 4:45 pm

    This book was amazing. In PE I always had a hard time keeping up with our teacher’s exercises for us. I read this book about Jessica and realized how hard her life was..and there are real people with the same situation! So whenever I hit Rigor Mortis Bend, I think of those people, and I push to the finish line. Also, the part about Rosa, and how she wishes for people to see her not her condition, well, I know a guy that has autism. But even though I know he has autism, he’s hilarious, and amazing, and I see him, not his condition. I’ve checked this book out from the library twice, I love it so much.

  9. brianna harman permalink
    May 26, 2012 7:53 pm


  10. February 7, 2013 5:17 am

    I found the blog seeing an article at technorati. I’ve got to state I really like the remarks and submit, I enjoy the method you think that and possess publication notable your website Many thanks.

  11. May 7, 2013 9:01 am

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am going
    through problems with your RSS. I don’t know why I can’t join it.
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  12. Skye Foreman permalink
    October 24, 2013 9:54 am

    This bool was so inspiring i finished reading it just the other day i loved how it went into the mind of Jessica and how she dealt with being a BK amputee i will now think differently about disabled people!


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