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A good alternative to dense chapter biographies and a rousing tribute to a man unjustly forgotten.

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)

Pub Date: May 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62014-156-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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