TALLER THAN BANDAI MOUNTAIN: The Story of Hideyo Noguchi by Dan D'Amelio

TALLER THAN BANDAI MOUNTAIN: The Story of Hideyo Noguchi

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When inspirational biography went out of style, children lost not only heroes but also models, so this modest album of scenes from the early life of Hideyo Noguchi is three-ways welcome: as the rise of a dirt-poor Japanese boy to Rockefeller Institute eminence long before global assistance; as the self-education of a dedicated doctor; as the triumph of fortitude over a crippling disablement. In loose consecutive sequences, twelve-year-old Hideyo Noguchi hides his maimed hand from the taunts of his duller but dexterous classmates; finds understanding from a teacher and his wife and help from skillful, selfless Dr. Watanabe; practices looping a cloth until he can tie a knot; starts to study medicine as the doctor's assistant; endures isolation and near-starvation as an aspirant doctor in Tokyo; heads off a plague as quarantine officer in Yokohama; achieves recognition investigating snake venom at the University of Pennsylvania. The description of young Hideyo manipulating his two stumps of fingers has a searing, unsentimental impact akin to Harold Russell's portrayal of the amputee in The Best Years of Our Lives, and the treatment of his deprivation is similarly graphic. Although the technique of cutting between scenes (chapters) and expecting the reader to make the connection is uncommon in juvenile biography, it permits a film-like fluidity that shouldn't trouble the TV generation. The epilogue separates fact from fictionalization and fills out Dr. Noguchi's career, an appropriate ending to a sensitively conceived reconstruction.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1968
Publisher: Viking