It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?: Tiny Stitches

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! is hosted by Jen Vincent  @Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers
tiny stitches
I love chancing upon books like Tiny Stitches – The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, and discovering brilliant and courageous people who have made exceptional contributions to society and have been overlooked because of racism, sexism, or ignorance.  Uncovering their stories and telling these with eloquence  and  conviction is an art form, I think, and that is what writer Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrator Colin Bootman have achieved with their book about Vivien Thomas.
Thomas was raised in Nashville, Tennessee, as the son of a master carpenter.  His dream was to study medicine, to put his gift for precision and his fascination with science to good use in the service of humankind. Vivien knew that ” with three colleges and a medical school for African Americans, Nashville was the perfect city in which Vivien’s dream could come true.” He saved for college, only to lose it all in the stock market crash of 1929. But, still he  persevered, finding a  job as a laboratory technician at Vanderbilt University’s medical school, working for Dr. Alfred Blalock and learning to hone his knowledge and skills even as he fought racism (his official title was janitor, and he made far less than the white lab technicians).
Thomas followed Blalock to Johns Hopkins University even though he knew that racial barriers were even more difficult in Baltimore.  But his dedication and perseverance pay off when he is able to pioneer a surgical technique to operate on “blue babies” – babies born with a congenital heart defect which did not permit enough oxygen to be delivered to the blood.  Thomas’ contributions were not publicly acknowledged for many, many years.  He was appointed to lead the Hopkins surgical research laboratory, however,  and taught a generation of surgeons and lab technicians.
In the end, as Gwendolyn Hooks writes:
Although he never had the chance to attend medical school, Vivien’s research pioneered open heart surgery on children.  Today about forth thousand children are born each year with heart problems.  Because of Vivien Thomas, these children now have a chance to live full and healthy lives.
Tiny Stitches – The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas is a wonderful book to share with our students – his story is one worth telling and celebrating.
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11 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?: Tiny Stitches

  1. You definitely found a gem of a book. I often see on Twitter that we need books on diversity and this one is perfect. Thanks for sharing, Tara!

  2. My daughter who was born with congenital heart disease and has had five open-heart surgeries (she is now 33), may be one of the “children” that has benefited from the work of Vivien Thomas. Thank you for bringing attention to a very worthy individual.

  3. I just read about this book on another’s post, too, Tara. It is wonderful to see that these little known stories are now told so we can all enjoy them. It makes me upset to know how little history we learned in school! Thanks for your review!

  4. One of our 6th grade groups doing Unsung Hero projects was about Vivien Thomas. He was born in New Iberia! Does the book mention that fact? He has not been celebrated here, so we felt that needed to change. I am happy to see that this book is coming out. We interviewed his nephew for the project. He is now a practicing physician who was inspired by his uncle. Thanks for sharing about this important book.

  5. Hi, Tara. I’ve been talking up this book too. My mother, born in 1945, was a blue baby. She traveled from NJ to Johns Hopkins to have the surgery when she was about age 4. Vivien Thomas saved her life and is part of our family’s history. Today is her birthday! I’m so glad to have this book to share with our family — what a treasure.

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