Master of His Fate: Roosevelt’s Rise from Polio to the Presidency

Holt. Mar. 2021. 272p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781627795203.
Gr 5-8–This biography focuses on the years of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s life from the time he contracted polio in 1921 to when he was inaugurated in 1933. His early life is briefly summarized. When discussing people with disabilities, Tobin notes when he is using words that readers will find offensive now and why he is doing so. Tobin also examines society’s changing views of disability and how Roosevelt helped impact these shifts in cultural thought. There are details about the controversy surrounding the portrayal of Roosevelt without crutches or a wheelchair in his monument erected in the 1990s. Pages of photographs, an index, and source notes are included. The writing level could be challenging for some readers, and the tone occasionally veers toward the didactic. Only a few times does the text feature a broader outlook on people with disabilities during the 1930s; it usually stays tightly focused on Roosevelt and acknowledges the unique power and privileges his position and wealth provided. While this book would not work as an overarching look at FDR’s life, nor should it be the first choice for a biographical portrait of the former president, it would work well for a student who wants to learn about polio and the experiences of people with disabilities.
VERDICT A solid biography for older readers focusing on the specific years of FDR’s life that included his struggles with polio, recovery, and learning to live as a person with a disability in a world where those differences usually meant being hidden away.

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