Hooks (The Noisy Night, 2014, etc.) and Bootman (Hey, Charleston!, 2013, etc.) illuminate the trials and triumphs of Vivien Thomas and his vital role in the development of children’s open-heart surgery.
Unable to attend medical school due to the Great Depression, Vivien (as Hooks styles him) takes a job as a research assistant at Vanderbilt University under Dr. Alfred Blalock, who is so impressed with Vivien’s surgical skill that he insists Vivien accompany him when he accepts a new position at Johns Hopkins in 1941. Despite the constant prejudice of the segregated hospital, Vivien researches and designs an operation to correct the fatal child heart defect known as “blue babies” syndrome—an operation that would come to save thousands of children’s lives and for which Vivien himself can only serve as a coach because only white staff may perform surgery. After more than 26 years without public recognition for his revolutionary contributions, Vivien receives an honorary doctorate in 1976, realizing his dream at last. Told candidly with a touch of gravitas, Vivien’s story deftly presents complex social and medical issues along with the gently insistent message of perseverance. Bootman’s full-page watercolors and muted palette gracefully bring emotional life to Vivien’s personal and clinical scenes alike—never has hospital green been so poignant. Though a substantial bibliography closes the book, there is no specific sourcing for dialogue cited in the text.
A good alternative to dense chapter biographies and a rousing tribute to a man unjustly forgotten. (notes, glossary, references) (Picture book. 7-12)