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Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  337 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Vivien Thomas's greatest dream was to attend college to study medicine. But after the stock market crashed in 1929, Vivien lost all his savings. Then he heard about a job opening at the Vanderbilt University medical school under the supervision of Dr. Alfred Blalock. Vivien knew that the all-white school would never admit him as a student, but he hoped working there meant ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published May 1st 2016 by Lee & Low Books
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Alex  Baugh
Tiny 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 re
Rowena Aldridge
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book really deserves five stars; the reason I gave it only four is because of form. The doctors in the book are referred to as "Dr. Last Name", but the subject of the book is referred to by just his first name, Vivien. This feels demeaning, even though I realize that the usage is probably due to the fact of this being a children's book, and not an intentional slight. Perhaps I am a little too touchy about this. It is all too common to see women and minorities spoken of by first name only, e ...more
Joanne Roberts
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cybils-nominees
Excellent presentation. Needed. Book highlights a pioneer overlooked because of his skin color. Shines a light on MC's selflessness and character as well as his achievements. Gives a positive role model for reacting against oppression. Ends on a positive note, the acclaim and recognition he finally received. Illustrations are attractive, but often static. ...more
Edward Sullivan
Excellent picture book biography about Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician whose achievement in developing a life-saving surgical procedure went unacknowledged for a quarter of a century because of his race. Compelling and inspiring.
Denise Lauron
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book showed up on a list of children's books for Black History Month. I recognized it from a book that had been recommended to me, Partners of the Heart, by Vivien Thomas.

This book would be great for older children. There a lot of information in it, and most likely wouldn't keep a younger child's attention. I enjoyed it, though, and look forward to reading the autobiography in the future.
Jack & Lily Wills
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book - too advanced for my 4 year olds, but would like to revisit it when they're older and able to follow along better! ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Vivien Thomas dreamed of becoming a doctor from a young age, but most schools in Tennessee were segregated and moreover cost a great deal of money. But he wanted to be as close to the practice of medicine as he could. At a job interview for a research assistant at the Vanderbilt Medical School, he convinced Dr. Alfred Blalock to hire him. Thomas was so good that before long, he was doing his own experiments. He also learned surgical techniques, and “Dr. Blalock was impressed by Vivien’s tiny sti ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s, biography
Vivien Thomas dreams of college and medical school and fortunately there are some for black students in Nashville, but the stock market crash of 1929 eliminates his savings. When a job opens at Vanderbilt's medical school lab, Thomas applies. He impresses Dr. Blalock and eventually conducts experiments and writes up reports. Another doctor loans him medical textbooks. He learns to suture and make the tiny stitches of the title. Then he discovers his job title is janitor and he then insists he sh ...more
Kim Ventrella
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tiny Stitches tells the story of medial pioneer Vivien Thomas, an African American who overcame discrimination in the 1940's to develop a life-saving surgical procedure. Hooks takes readers from his early days working in his father's carpentry shop, through the Great Depression and on to Vanderbilt University, where he applies his carpentry skills to surgery while working with Dr. Alfred Blalock. Vivien loves his job, until he learns that he is classified as a janitor, not a research technician ...more
Amber Martin
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a "blue baby" myself who has had a Blalock shunt, I was very excited to see a new book about Vivien Thomas. I am so grateful that he had the opportunities that he did and the friendship he had with Alfred Blalock. Thomas has become sort of a hero for me because, without him, I might not have had the opportunities that I've had. (Prognosis for babies with Tetralogy of Fallot without corrective surgery is 21 years old at best.)

This story gives a very real look at the life of a black man in the
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me by a librarian after I told her I was proclaiming 2017 as the year of nonfiction picture books. I was intrigued when she had mentioned being impressed by this even though I had no idea what she was referring to with the term "blue babies."

It was amazing how much Vivien Thomas persevered- and not just because of racism. It's still unbelievable how mistreated people were (are) treated because of the color of their skin. I'm just glad that he got recognized for his incred
With easy-to-understand narrative text and beautiful watercolor illustrations, this picture book biography tells the story of Vivien Thomas, a surgical research technician who helped develop techniques and equipment to perform open-heart surgeries on babies. Thomas was unable to attend medical school because the Great Depression put it out of reach financially. As a laboratory technician to a prominent surgeon, Thomas overcame racism and resentment from colleagues to become one of the pioneers o ...more
This is amazing. I am so happy I got to learn about Vivien. He had an amazing career and I'm sorry that he was not recognized for it sooner. I am glad he was acknowledged and he was able to impact so many great careers. We are very lucky to have had him! Read for Info Books for Youth for grad school. ...more
Sandra Byrd Lawson
What a great book with so much information on a subject/person I'd never heard of. It really shows the racial barriers that have been overcome in our society. Every school child should read this book! Loved it! ...more
Sonia Gensler
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very informative, endearing, and even suspenseful account of Vivien Thomas' life and work, written in clear, eloquent prose by Gwendolyn Hooks and enhanced by the beautiful watercolor art of Colin Bootman. Truly a must-have for school and home libraries! ...more
Debbie Tanner
A lovely picture book biography about Vivien Thomas, a man determined to become a doctor, even when it was difficult to do so. He pioneered open heart surgeries on infants and yet remained unrecognized until the 1970s.
Valerie Lawson
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this talented and humble man who deserved to have his story told. The beautiful illustrations enhance the wonderful storytelling. Well done!
Diana Gagliardi
Sep 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating figure who could have done so much more if people hadn't been so hung up on his race... ...more
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: 2nd-5th grade
Interesting story to tell, but the illustrations didn't appeal to me and the writing felt a little flat. ...more
Brenda Kahn
Sometimes the injustice in this world takes my breath away. This is an important biography and must-purchase addition to school, public, classroom and STEM libraries.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
I'm so glad Gwendolyn Hooks wrote this book. We should all celebrate the pioneering work of Vivien Thomas. ...more
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 3-6-biography
Vivian Thomas grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and was on his way to study medicine in one of the African American colleges there. When the stock market crashed all of the money he saved for college was gone. He got a lucky break from a friend at Vanderbilt University in their medical school. Since it was an all white university he wasn't admitted as a student, in fact he discovered his title was a janitor, whose salary was much lower then the white assistants. However by working with Dr. Blalock ...more
Kitty Tomlinson
Children's biography in picture book format of Vivien Thomas. Details the contributions he made to medicine as an African American before people of his race were able to be recognized and acknowledged for their work and knowledge. ...more
Sandy Brehl
I had an aunt I would never know. My father was the oldest of not three siblings, but four. He had a baby sister, Rosemary, who lived only a few hours. She was a "blue baby", and that expression was followed by saying she was born with a bad heart. I still recall my earliest, confused images of what "blue baby" meant, progressing over the years to an adult understanding of congenital heart defects and cyanosis.
While serving on the nonfiction panel for Cybils awards I read TINY STITCHES: The Lif
Alicia Brommer
Fiction Twin:
Gerber, A. (2017). Braced. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Tiny Stitches is a picture book, but because of the topic and vocabulary used, it is very appropriate for 4th - 6th grade students. In order to understand everything in the book, students need to have a basic understanding of anatomy and how the heart specifically works. To tie into the science and medical theme, I chose Braced, by Alison Gerber. Braced is a novel, so it will have to be ta
This picture book version of the life experiences of Vivien Thomas introduces young readers to the pioneer whose innovations and medical skills lead to the first successful open-heart surgery performed on a baby. As a boy, he dreamed of studying medicine, but the stock market crash took all his money and made him shift those dreams. Eventually he is hired to work as an assistant in Vanderbilt, but his job description indicates that he is a janitor. Although he accompanies Dr. Alfred Blalock, his ...more
Kristi Bernard
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Doctors work miracles all the time. Many of these doctors may go unnoticed, or it may take them years to make their miracle a reality. But one doctor, Vivien Thomas, wasn’t scared to make his mark in the world. He had invented a brand new operation using tiny delicate tools designed to work on troubled tiny delicate hearts.

When the depression hit and all money was lost but Vivien’s dreams didn’t die. Although he couldn’t go to medical school he was given an opportunity to work with Dr. Blalock.
Oak Lawn Public Library - Youth Services
Title: Tiny Stitches The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas
Author: Gwendolyn Hooks
Lexile: 920L
Pages: 32

This is the inspiring story of Vivien Thomas, who went from being born in poverty to being a medical pioneer. He grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and from a young age dreamed of being a doctor. He worked alongside his father, who was a master carpenter and saved up money in the bank for college. Unfortunately the Great Depression in 1929 derailed those plans. He found a job at Vanderbilt Univ
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classroom-use
Prior to finding this book as I searched for picture book biographies, I had never heard of Vivien Thomas. On his way to becoming a doctor, Vivien worked in a research lab at Vanderbilt University, an all white school at the time that would not admit him as a student. Even though he was a research technician, his official job title was janitor, because of his color. When his mentor moved to John's Hopkins, he brought Vivien with him but this area was even more segregated that Vanderbilt and hard ...more
Urbandale Library
This illuminating juvenile biography tells us two stories; the fascinating battle to cure “blue baby” syndrome, an often fatal defect in four valves of the heart, (Don’t worry, Hooks provides an understandable explanation in the back of the book!), and the story of how Vivien Thomas both ascended above and was oppressed by the Jim Crow South and his mentor, Alfred Blalock.

Hooks balances both stories with calm and clear explanations, even when the story makes your blood boil. Thomas, an African
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Gwendolyn Hooks was born in Savannah, Georgia, and lived in Texas, Washington, and Italy thanks to her Air Force dad. She earned a degree in secondary math education from the University of Missouri in St. Louis. After teaching middle school math, Gwendolyn decided to follow her new passion, writing for children. She loves visiting schools and libraries sharing her writing life with students. For i ...more

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