Tiny Stitches is an excellent picture book for older readers about this fascinating life-saving pioneer in heart surgery.
When Vivien Thomas was a younTiny Stitches is an excellent picture book for older readers about this fascinating life-saving pioneer in heart surgery.
When Vivien Thomas was a young boy, his dream was to enter the medical field. As a teen, Vivien helped his father, a master carpenter in Nashville, Tennessee, who taught him the value of patient measuring, cutting and fitting together pieces of wood, skills that would definitely be valuable to Vivien later on.
Vivien saved his money for medical school, but by the time he was ready to go, the stock market had crashed and he lost all his savings. Luckily, he was able to get a job as a lab assistant working in Dr. Alfred Blalock's Vanderbilt University laboratory.
Thanks to Dr. Blalock, Vivien learned how to write lab reports and conduct experiments with the same kind of meticulous care he had used while working for his father, so it wasn't long before he was doing his own experiments. But when he learned that his official job title was janitor because he was African American, he was insulted. He confronted Dr. Blalock, asking for and receiving the same paid as white technicians.
When Dr. Blalock moved to Johns Hopkins in Maryland, Vivien and his wife and two daughters went with him. Maryland is a southern state, and Johns Hopkins was more segregated that Vanderbilt was, so Vivien faced a more strident racism than he was used to.
But it was there that Vivien got involved in the research Dr. Helen Taussig's research on "blue babies," patients born with a heart defect that made their skin appear bluish because they did not get enough oxygen and usually died.
Thanks to his patient and meticulous research and experiments, Vivien was able to develop a procedure for delivering blood directly to the lungs to provide oxygen to a baby's body, using the tiny needle Vivien invented to make the tiny stitches needed to suture the arteries involved.
Was Vivien's procedure a success? Yes, it was, with articles about it in Time and Life magazines, and eventually a Nobel Prize nomination. Was Vivien given credit along with Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig? No, not until 26 years after the first successful blue baby surgery.
It remained up to the doctors he has subsequently trained in his procedure to do that in 1971, and finally, in 1976, Johns Hopkins awarded Vivien an honorary doctorate and appointed him to the faculty as Instructor of Surgery (with the appropriate salary, hopefully).
I thought that Gwendolyn Hooks presented the obstacles Vivien Thomas faced because of his race with clarity and dignity. I have to admit I was disappointed that there was no indication (and I'm sure that is because it didn't happen) that the two doctors Vivien had worked so closely with and whose life saving surgery was successful because of his experiments never insisted that he also be given credit.
I found this to be an excellent and inspiring story. Colin Bootman's soft, realistic watercolor illustrations add depth and respect to a man who had to give up his dream of medical school and deal with the racism he faced at every turn, but who accomplished so much despite the obstacles in his way.
Hooks has included some interesting back matter, namely more about blue babies and Vivien Thomas, a useful glossary, and the source's she used to write this book.
Tiny Stitches is an excellent addition to any STEM library. It is also the kind of book I never would have read as a young reader simply because it probably wouldn't have existed. But, thankfully, that's beginning to change now so that more and more we are being introduced to heroes of color that we never would have known about otherwise.
This book is recommended for readers age 7+ This book was iBook received from Edelweiss/Above the Treeline and the publisher, Lee & Low Books
Six-grader Leigh Botts hasn't been a very happy boy since his parents got divorced, and so he has decided to pick up where he left off in his correspoSix-grader Leigh Botts hasn't been a very happy boy since his parents got divorced, and so he has decided to pick up where he left off in his correspondence with author Boyd Henshaw. Leigh has been sending Mr. Henshaw one or two letters year since first grade, but now his sixth grade teacher has assigned the class an author report to improve their writing skills.
And so, Leigh decides to write to Mr. Henshaw again with a list of questions for his report, including any writing tips since Leigh would also like to be a famous author someday. Although he gets a reply to his questions, Mr. Henshaw's answers are sometimes funny, other times snarky, but Leigh does think his writing tips are OK. Oh yes, and Mr. Henshaw sends back a list of questions for Leigh to answer. He has no intention of doing this until his mother finds the questions and tells him that since Mr. Henshaw answered his questions, Leigh needs to do the same.
As Leigh writes his answers to Mr. Henshaw's questions in a series of letters, it becomes clear that he is not handling his parents divorce well. He misses his father, who keeps making promises to visit, promises which are broken. And because of the divorce, Leigh and his mother have moved into a small apartment next to a gas station. She has had taken two jobs to help make ends meet, but that means that Leigh is often home alone. And to make matters worse, Leigh is the new kid in his class, so he has no friends yet, except for Mr. Fridley, the school janitor. One positive aspect to his life is that his mother's second job is with a caterer, so there is often special treats in his lunch bag. On the negative, someone is stealing these special treats out of his lunch bag almost every day.
Annoyed about this, Leigh decides to build an alarm to try and catch the person stealing his treats. When the alarm works, the kids in his class are totally impressed and Leigh finally makes a friend in school, though he doesn't catch the lunch bag thief.
And when he is encouraged by his teacher to write a story for the Young Writers' Yearbook, he decides to write about riding in his dad's rig, a story that gets him an honorable mention and a chance to meet a famous author. Things begin to look up for Leigh, though he does learn that some things in his life won't change, but he slowly begins to accept that and more forward.
Dear Mr. Henshaw is an interesting epistolary novel. Although the reader never gets to read any of Mr. Henshaw's replies to Leigh, what he writes can be surmised from Leigh's references to them. And since the story is told in the first person by Leigh, the reader has only his interpretation of Mr. Henshaw's letters, so the story's perspective is very limited. Fortunately, for all his complaining, Leigh wants to be a writer, and so the things his writes are very informative as far as what is going on in his life.
I have to admit that at the beginning of the novel, I found Leigh to be a rather cranky, irksome protagonist, but as the novel progressed, and the problems he was trying to cope with became more and more apparent, I found him a much more sympathetic character. There is a lot on Leigh's plate and Cleary handles it just right given the age of the intended readers. Although, at times, I found the loneliness Leigh feels at school and at home is so palpable, it was difficult to read about it, even when I wasn't feeling very empathic towards him.
Beverly Cleary has crafted a beautifully plotted story that may feel a little dated (no cell phones, no computers - would his life have been different if these were available?), but the kinds of things Leigh must deal with are still very much relatable in today's world. It is no surprise she won the Newbery in 1984 for Dear Mr. Henshaw.
Cleary wrote what sounds like a great coming of age sequel to Dear Mr. Henshaw called Strider, and I am really looking forward to reading it and finding out how Leigh manages.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was purchased for my personal library
It's November 1942, and Marcel Christophe, 12, has one dream - to ride in the famous bike race the Tour de France when he gets older. For now, though,It's November 1942, and Marcel Christophe, 12, has one dream - to ride in the famous bike race the Tour de France when he gets older. For now, though, he must be content with practicing on his bicycle, riding to school and delivering bread to customers of his parents' bakery. The race has been cancelled since the Nazis began occupying northern France in 1940, but Marcel knows it will be back after the war is over. Now, however, the Nazis have also invaded the southern part of France where Marcel lives, making things difficult for everyone. Not only are there shortages and rationing, but soldiers are stopping people to question where they are going and why.
The first time Marcel is stopped by a guard, his parents want to know all about it. The next time they ask him to deliver bread to his aunt and uncle. his mother gives him some pain d'epice (gingerbread) to offer to the guard if he is stopped again. Sure enough, the guard is there, and more than willing to let Marcel go by in exchange for the gingerbread. Afterwards, Marcel decides to slice off a little of the bread to eat and discovers a note written by his father baked into it. Suddenly, Marcel realizes he has been making a lot more bread deliveries these past few weeks, but why? Stunned, Marcel realizes his parents are in the resistance and his is delivering messages for them. Realizing the danger for everyone concerned, he decides to keep this to himself.
Meanwhile, at school, there is a new girl named Delphine Gilette who is not only a very good student, but knows all about the Tour de France thanks to her brother and father's interest in the race. It doesn't take long before she and Marcel become fast friends, riding their bikes together, playing together and doing homework. But just as Marcel has a secret, so does Delphine and when a boy in their class discovers a revealing photograph in her school satchel, her secret is exposed. Delphine and her family are Jews from northern France who had traveled to southern France using forged papers when it was still free of Nazis soldiers. Now, they will need new papers to try to get out of France to safely.
Marcel realizes he must confess to his parents that he knows that they are part of the resistance in order to help his friend escape France. Luckily, his parents are more than willing to help, but they must send Marcel to a fellow resistance contact on his bicycle. What should have been a simple trip, however, is anything but. Everything that could go wrong does, including a flat tire that forces Marcel to trade his beloved bike for a beat up replacement that will take him further from home than he has ever been seeking the right people who can help Delphine and her family get out of France.
But the Nazis have already begun rounding up all the Jews in the area. Will Marcel make it to his final destination and home again before Delphine and her parents are found and deported?
At first I thought The Bicycle Spy was not going to be a very interesting story, but that quickly changed and it proved to be a very accessible, exciting narrative of courage and friendship. The language is direct and clear, and terms that might be unfamiliar to readers are defined in the glossary at the back of the book. Told in the third person, Marcel's story unfolds simply and believably. I say believably because after reading so many stories about the courageous acts of children to help other, I can easily see how this could have happened.
As a protagonist, Marcel is a typical, unassuming 12 year old, who is happy riding his bike, racing his friends, and dreaming about his big Tour de France wins, yet he also seems surprised by his own bravery. Delphine, a girl who has had to move around because of the Nazis, feels a little more down to earth but the reader will definitely feel her underlying anxiety, even when she appears to be so confident.
I really liked the way Yona Zeldis McDonough managed to keep the tension building slowly right up to the end of the novel, making it a deceptively simple, thought provoking story. I also like the way she incorporated information about the Nazi occupation of France, WWII and even the Tour de France so easily that it felt like a natural part of the narrative, and not like she was teaching her readers a lesson.
McDonough has also included a short history of WWII, as well as a Timeline, a short history of the Tour de France (something I found very interesting since all I know about this race has to do with the disgraced Lance Armstrong) and books for further reading.
There is much in The Bicycle Spy that will appeal to young readers and for that reason, I highly recommend it to them.
This book is recommended for readers age 8+ This book was sent to me by the publisher, Scholastic Press
It seems appropriate to end Summer Reading 2016 with an old favorite in my house. Written in 1957, this classic story is about one family's summer vacIt seems appropriate to end Summer Reading 2016 with an old favorite in my house. Written in 1957, this classic story is about one family's summer vacation on one of the many islands around Penobscot Bay, Maine.
It isn't really a story as much as it is a chronicle of observations about different aspects of island life and the activities of two sisters on the island, all narrated in the third person from the point of view of one of the girls. It begins with dark clouds moving across all the islands until they reach the one where the family is staying, watching as the rain approaches and finally begins to fall, chasing the sisters inside. A foggy morning greets them the next day, but it eventually gives way to a bright sunny warmth, as the girl marvels at the sights and sounds of nature all around her.
What follows is a summer filled with happy days of sailing, exploring, swimming, and playing with friends, observing the natural world of birds, fish, animals, flora and fauna usual to a Maine island, side by side with the people who work and live there - lobster fishermen, herring and scallop fishermen, the people who run the supply stores.
As summer winds down, a hurricane blows in. And then it is time to pack up and go home, back to their school year routine.
Time of Wonder is a delightful look at one idyllic summer. McCloskey's text is poetic, simple, lyrical and dreamlike. The watercolor illustrations are done in an almost ethereal style that harmonizes so perfectly with the text, This is clearly a place McCloskey loved, and in fact, he did spent summers there with his wife and two daughters. So yes, like Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder does seem to be based on some real life events.
This has always been one of my Kiddo's favorite books, and I can see why. We spent every summer at the beach when she was growing up and she always said it was her favorite time of year because it reminded her of Time of Wonder (even though we were on the Jersey shore and not Maine). And this book really does capture that feeling of summer by the ocean. Each time I read it, I can smell the salt air, hear the seagulls cry, feel the waves crashing against my legs, and yes, battening down the hatches for a hurricane (we've been caught in a few of those, including this year).
McCloskey has left us with just the right words to sum up summer and welcome autumn:
Take a farewell look at the waves and sky. Take a farewell sniff of the salty sea. A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going. It is a time of quiet wonder -
This book is recommended for readers of any age This book was purchased for my personal library
It's 1952 and Azalea Ann Morgan, 11, isn't too thrilled about being dropped off at her grandmother's house in Paris Junction, Arkansas. Azalea had bigIt's 1952 and Azalea Ann Morgan, 11, isn't too thrilled about being dropped off at her grandmother's house in Paris Junction, Arkansas. Azalea had big plans to hang out with her best friend Barbara Jean at home in Tyler, Texas and to visit the Grand Canyon with the parents. But Grandma Clark has hurt her foot and needs help with her house and garden, and even though Azalea and her grandmother are virtual strangers to each other, Azalea's mother agreed to let her stay for the summer.
Azalea is a shy girl and dreads talking to strangers, and, of course, Paris Junction is full of strangers. No sooner does Azalea arrive, then she notices a boy in one of the trees in her grandmother's enormous garden. Grandma Clark tells her it's Billy Wong, a Chinese American boy who is staying with his great aunt and uncle, longtime Paris Junction residents and owners of the Lucky Seven grocery. But when her grandmother encourages Azalea to make friends with Billy, she hesitates - she's never met a Chinese person before, and can't imagine how they could understand each other if one speaks Chinese and one speaks English.
It turns out that Billy Wong has no trouble with the English language given that his family has lived in Arkansas for generations. Billy is staying in Paris Junction so that he can attend a better school than the school across the river where is parents live. And Billy is one of three kids besides Azalea who come to help out in Grandmother Clark's garden. Besides him, there is the prissy Melinda Bowman and the town bully and troublemaker Willis DeLoach.
Before she knows it, Azalea is speaking more and more to strangers, and becoming friends with Billy Wong, hanging out and riding their bikes around Paris Junction. Which is how they discover Willis DeLoach's secret. Willis, whose mother is in the hospital, is home alone in at trailer in a pecan grove, taking care of his little sister.
And Willis DeLoach hates Billy Wong. He's already in trouble at the Lucky Seven grocery, and continues to steal bubble gum from them whenever he can. Shortly after discovering Willis and his sister at the trailer, the Lucky Seven is vandalized and everyone immediately jumps to the conclusion that it is the work of Willis. Everyone, except Azalea, who actually knows where Willis was the night of the vandalism.
Though the vandalism of the Lucky Seven stands at the center of this novel, there is a lot going on for Azalea. For one thing, her first night at Grandma Clark's she broke what appeared to the an old, maybe valuable plate and is afraid to tell her grandmother. And what happened between her grandmother and her parents that caused the estrangement between them, so that Azalea was never able to get to know her grandmother, or her now deceased grandfather, before. And finally, what is inside the locked shed in Grandmother Clark's garden, the one she forbade Azalea from going into, and yet why is there light coming from it at night, even when her grandmother is home, snoring in her bed?
Making Friends with Billy Wong is my favorite kind of middle grade novel. I picked it up and couldn't put it down. The story is told mainly from Azalea's first person point of view, an outsider to Paris Junction and someone who can record what she sees with more clarity than perhaps its residents. Interspersed are Billy's first person thoughts, written in poetry or in the style of a journalist (he wants to join the school newspaper), in which he writes about his hopes for his new school and his life, and about dealing with the racial prejudice he experiences on a daily basis in this 1952 segregated south.
I've always liked the way Augusta Scattergood handles her characters, regardless of the role they play in one of her novels. She treats them with respect and in return, they reveal themselves calmly, naturally and unselfconsciously, yet they are not without flaws, The same can be said about her southern settings, a setting in which she is very much at home.
And I really loved that Scattergood gave us a grandmother turned out to be different from the usual array of unknown grandmothers. Grandma Clark welcomes Azalea, treats her with nothing but kindness and turns out to be a pretty unique person in her own right. She's fair and open-minded, so why did Azalea's parents want to get away from her as quickly as possible, and refuse to let her get to know her grandchild for so long? The answer may surprise you, it did Azalea.
I can honestly say I enjoyed reading Making Friends with Billy Wong every bit as much as I enjoyed reading Scattergood's previous two historical fiction works - Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny (my reviews). Like them, this is also a wonderfully well-written, very well researched story about family, friendship, bullies, hate, overcoming personal challenges and learning to not jump to conclusions.
Be sure to read Scattergood's Author's Note to learn more about the little known, but large Chinese population in the south in the 1950s and 1960s and what inspired this novel.
This book is recommended for readers age 8+ This book was sent to me by the author