Despite lacunae, a gripping look at a major medical breakthrough.

In 1944, Dr. Alfred Blalock joined pediatrician Dr. Helen Taussig and research assistant Vivien Thomas to develop the first surgical procedure to treat a severe heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot, or more commonly “blue baby syndrome.”

The success of this groundbreaking procedure ushered in the concept that hearts could be surgically repaired. Thomas, a brilliant, highly skillful African-American who was unable to afford college, did much of the work to design and perfect the procedure. Murphy provides background on all three of those involved but focuses on Thomas and Blalock, their unusual professional relationship in the context of an era of extreme racial prejudice, and the failure to credit Thomas with his achievements. Controversial animal experimentation was a major component of the research, a topic covered in some detail. Although the cardiac defect is simply explained, there are no diagrams to enhance understanding of it. The first attempt at the procedure resulted in immediate improvement in the dying baby’s condition. Oddly, however, the final result for her is revealed only in the detailed endnotes. While the surgical procedure soon became available as a treatment option, no information is provided on how surgically treated patients fared, long term—even though a full page focuses on the outcome for a canine subject.

Despite lacunae, a gripping look at a major medical breakthrough. (source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-547-82183-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015


From the They Did What? series

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015


From the Giants of Science series

Hot on the heels of the well-received Leonardo da Vinci (2005) comes another agreeably chatty entry in the Giants of Science series. Here the pioneering physicist is revealed as undeniably brilliant, but also cantankerous, mean-spirited, paranoid and possibly depressive. Newton’s youth and annus mirabilis receive respectful treatment, the solitude enforced by family estrangement and then the plague seen as critical to the development of his thoughtful, methodical approach. His subsequent squabbles with the rest of the scientific community—he refrained from publishing one treatise until his rival was dead—further support the image of Newton as a scientific lone wolf. Krull’s colloquial treatment sketches Newton’s advances in clearly understandable terms without bogging the text down with detailed explanations. A final chapter on “His Impact” places him squarely in the pantheon of great thinkers, arguing that both his insistence on the scientific method and his theories of physics have informed all subsequent scientific thought. A bibliography, web site and index round out the volume; the lack of detail on the use of sources is regrettable in an otherwise solid offering for middle-grade students. (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-05921-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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