Monday, December 5, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: Tiny Stitches: the life of medical pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks

Tiny Stitches: the life of medical pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks. Illustrated by Colin Bootman. unpgd. Lee & Low Books, May, 2016. 9781620141564. (Review from purchased copy)

This is the story of Vivien Thomas who wanted to become a doctor. So he worked hard alongside of his father, who was a master carpenter and saved his money. But he lost it all in the stock market crash of 1929. While jobs were scarce for carpenters during the Great Depression, Vivien learned about a job opening at Vanderbilt Medical School. He hoped that by taking it, he could keep his dreams of becoming a doctor alive. 

He interviewed with Dr. Alfred Blalock. Dr. Blalock wanted someone to help him with his research into treatment for patients in shock. Blalock was impressed with Vivien and offered him the job. Blalock taught Vivien how to conduct experiments and write up lab reports. Another doctor loaned him medical texts. Vivien was such a quick study that it wasn't long before he was conducting his own experiments. 

He learned to suture seamlessly. He also learned that his job description was that of janitor and that white men with the same duties were earning more than he. He informed Dr. Blalock that he would no longer work for him unless he was paid comparably. 

When Doctor Blalock left Vanderbilt to join Johns Hopkins, Vivien knew it would not be long before he was fired by Vanderbilt so he moved to Baltimore but could not find housing. It turned out that Johns Hopkins was more segregated that Vanderbilt but Vivien persevered. 

In 1943, a pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Helen Taussig, approached Dr. Blalock about finding a way to cure the tiniest cardiac patients, the "blue babies." These were babies who were born with a congenital heart defect known as Tetrology of Fallot, or four defects that prevented blood from being properly oxygenated.

After months of experimenting, Vivien realized that the solution might be a "procedure he and Dr. Blalock perfected at Vanderbilt for a different problem." One stumbling block to trying this surgery was that the needles were too long for the tiny infants' hearts and blood vessels. Vivien needed to make the needles small enough to use on a newborn. He tried his new needles out on animals and found a way to anastomose arteries using them. In November of 1944, Dr. Taussig had a baby girl who needed surgery or she would die. 

On the morning of the surgery, Dr. Blalock insisted that Vivien remain in the operating room to help guide him through the surgery. The baby survived thanks to Vivien's help but Dr. Blalock got all the credit and press. Dr. Blalock became world famous and Vivien was never credited for his research until 1971. In 1976, he was given an honorary doctorate and appointed to the faculty as instructor. 

Talk about injustice! What tenacity and perseverance on the part of Vivien Thomas! This is an important addition to any school, public or classroom or STEM library. The mostly double-page watercolor illustrations are fantastic. They convey Vivien Thomas' dignity and intelligence. Two pages of backmatter provides more information about Tetrology of Fallot and Vivien Thomas, followed by a glossary of medical terms and source notes. 

Truly a first-purchase with cross-curricular uses.

ETA: I almost forgot! The eighth grade social studies teacher has a unit on African-American inventors. I asked him if Vivien Thomas was on the list of possible inventors to research. He was not; but after hearing my synopsis of the story, wants to add him.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: Wish by Barbara O'Connor

Wish by Barbara O'Connor. 227 p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August, 2016. 9780374302733. (Purchased)

After eleven-year-old Charlie's dad, Scrappy, is sent to prison to be "corrected" and her mom can't seem to drag herself out of bed, Charlie is sent to live with Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus. Not only is she separated from her beloved older sister, she doesn't know these people and they live way out in the boondocks. Her best friend tells her she'll be going to school with hillbillies. She is not happy. At the best of times, Charlie is prickly and prone to fight, a trait she proudly believes she inherited from her father.

Nonetheless, Bertha and Gus are thrilled to have her despite the sulking and nasty comments. Her tough shell repels her classmates effectively except for Howard, a neighbor who lives in a noisy house with many brothers and walks with an "updown" walk. His persistent kindness is a true puzzle to Charlie.

Charlie does have one wish though. Ever since fourth grade, she looks for a sign daily to make a wish on and she has never ever told her wish. She feels unwanted and like she doesn't fit in anywhere. When she spies a dog skulking around town and learns that it's a stray no one seems to own, Charlie is determined to make it hers.

O'Connor evokes a strong sense of setting here and her characters, even the minor ones, are fully fleshed out. The town is fictional but it and the community are so well-drawn, I feel I would recognize Colby were it real. I kind of wish it was. Charlie is a keen observer and her voice is achingly compelling. I winced with each mis-step and fell more in love with Bertha and Gus as they continued to love Charlie unconditionally. Howard is an exceptional character also. He is lucky to be buoyed by a large, loving family to help him cope with his own troubles. He is a steadfast friend to Charlie despite her occasional cruelty. 

I adored this book and will recommend it widely - to tweens who love dog stories and stories of friendship; to readers who love gentle, more thoughtful stories; and to teachers who might be looking for a powerful read-aloud to imbue important, discussable messages without a sledgehammer. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Taking Stock - November

Whee-oh! November whizzed right by! 
Total posts this month: 18
Total books read this month: 42
Total books read this year: 356

Audio: 9/ 97
Debut: 2/12

The Good: Nine books away from my Goodreads goal of 366 books for 2017. Helped very much by the fact that November is Picture Book Month. To celebrate, the students and I have been reading 2-3 picture books a day in "Period Kanh." 

The Bad: Still can't find the time or inspiration to review more. This is a shame because this year has been chock-full of amazing books! I don't feel as guilty though because I do share my love in short reviews on Goodreads.

The Books: * = favorite
November (Picture Book Month)
315. The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat (11/1)*
316. Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith (11/1)*
317. Widget by Lyn Rossiter McFarland (11/2)
318. Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske (11/2)*
319. Ten Hungry Pigs by Derek Anderson (11/2)
320. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (11/2)*
321. Masterminds by Gordon Korman (11/2)
322. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (11/3)
323. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (11/3)
324. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen (11/3)*
325. Shy by Deborah Freedman (11/4)*
326. Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre (11/4)*
327. ABC: the alphabet from the sky by Benedikt Gross and Joey Lee (11/4)*
328. Double Down by Jeff Kinney (11/5)
329. Living Fossils: clues to the past by Caroline Arnold (11/7)
330. Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (11/8)
331. Duck for President by Doreen Cronin (11/8)*
332. Darcy Swipes Left by Jane Austen & Courtney Carbone (11/9)
333. Return by Aaron Becker (11/9)*
334. Wish by Barbara O'Connor (11/10)*
335. Scrooge #worstgiftever by Charles Dickens/ Brett Wright (11/11)
336. The Tapper Twins Run for President by Geoff Rodkey (11/11)*
337. The Job: true tales from the life of a New York City cop by Steve Osborne (11/13)
338. Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (11/13)
339. Journey by Aaron Becker (11/14)*
340. One More Thing: stories and other stories by B.J. Novak (11/15)
341. Dream Jumper Book One: Nightmare Escape by Greg Grunberg & Lucas Turnbloom (11/16)
342. Tiny Stitches: the life of medical pioneer Vivian Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks (11/16)*
343. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (11/16)
344. It's Not Easy Being Number Three by Drew Dernavich (11/17)
345. I Don't Want to be Big! by Dev Petty (11/17)
346. Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin (11/18)
347. Masterminds Book 2: Criminal Destiny by Gordon Korman (11/20)
348. A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston (11/21)*
349. Little Mouse's Big Book of Beasts by Emily Gravett (11/22) 
350. Teacup by Rebecca Young (11/23)*
351. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (11/26)
352. To the Stars! The first American woman to walk in space by Carmella Van Vleet & Dr. Kathy Sullivan (11/28)
353. Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson (11/28)*
354. Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari (11/29)*
355. Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch (11/29)
356. Giant Squid by Candace Fleming (11/30)*

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer. Illustrated by Douglas Holgate. 240 p. Feiwel and Friends, January 31, 2017. 9781250078261.

Goodreads synopsis: In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

My students and I are great fans of The Lunar Chronicles. Personally, I adore Iko and am so happy for this spin-off. A 240 page graphic novel? Wow! I am sure fans won't bat an eye; but that sure seems long for a gn.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.


Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  Anniversary Edition. 304 p. Random House Children's Books, May, 2016. 9780399551239.

Publisher synopsis: This classic about a ten-year-old boy growing up in the Ozark mountains with his inseparable pair of coonhounds — will warm the hearts of young and old alike. Winner of the Great Stone Face Award.

This is one of my favorites and I'm donating it to my school library because our edition is an old, tatty, unattractive hard cover paperback with yellowed pages. I bought one for my home library as well. 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer. Unabridged audiobook on 12 compact discs. 14.5 hours. Read by Rebecca Soler.  A Macmillan Audiobook, November, 2016. 9781427267948.

Publisher synopsis: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In Heartless, Marissa Meyer's stand-alone novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. Six of Crows book 2. Unabridged audiobook on 2 MP3 CDs. 17 hours, 59 minutes. Read by Brandon Rubin, Jay Snyder, Elizabeth Evans, Fred Berman, Peter Ganim, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, & Kevin T. Collings. Brilliance Audio, November, 2016. 9781491589267.

Publisher synopsis: The highly anticipated sequel to the thrilling #1 New York Times-bestselling Six of Crows.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: Nightmare Escape by Greg Grunberg

Nightmare Escape by Greg Grunberg. Book one of the Dream Jumper series. Illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom. Color by Guy Major. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc.,June, 2016. 9780545826044. (Review courtesy of finished copy provided by the publisher.)

Ten-year-old Ben hasn't been getting much sleep lately. Nearly every night, he finds himself not only having his own terrifying nightmares, but jumping into the nightmares of friends and acquaintances as well. It is only when he becomes totally exhausted that he agrees to visit a sleep clinic with his concerned single-parent mom. 

There, he discovers the aptly named, Ward Z, filled with people stuck in REM sleep and unable to awaken. He finds his friends and some old guy who looks vaguely familiar. Ben's vivid dream quickly turns into a nightmare during his own sleep test. He encounters frightening monsters who attack him and has to rescue the very friends who are stuck in Ward Z. He also meets a rabbit who looks vaguely familiar. 

This parallel universe is rife with evil and good people with the power to keep the evil at bay are far and few between. Ben discovers that he has a rare power - the ability to dream jump and might be the key to defeating this evil. 

This debut was an fast-paced, engaging middle-grade-friendly graphic novel. It is book one of a series. While it does not end in a cliffhanger, there is enough unfinished business to keep the reader interested in the next book. 

The art is gorgeous with crisp, clear, uncluttered panels. The color is intense. Ben is a winning main character. There's an interesting and diverse crew of supporting characters as well as humor, action and adventure. All-in-all, a great addition to the middle grade graphic novel section.

Waiting on Wednesday: Cyclone by Doreen Cronin

 I learned about this courtesy of Travis Jonker @ 100 Scope Notes last week.

Cyclone by Doreen Cronin. 256 p. Atheneum/ Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, May 16, 2017. 9781481435253.

Publisher synopsis: Nora’s whole world plummets faster than the Cyclone roller coaster when her cousin Riley falls into a coma that Nora thinks is her fault in this warm, big-hearted debut middle grade novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Doreen Cronin.

The F-bomb. That’s the last thing that Nora hears her cousin Riley say before she falls to the ground in front of the Coney Island roller coaster, Cyclone. Nora had begged and dragged Riley onto the ride, and no matter what the doctors say, that Riley was diabetic, that it could have happened at any time, Nora knows it was her fault. And as Riley comes out of her coma, she’s not really Riley at all. The cousin who used to be loud and funny and unafraid now can’t talk, let alone go to the bathroom by herself. No, she’s only 10% Riley. Nora, guilt gnawing at her, thinks she knows how to help, how to get Riley back to her 100% self. But what Nora doesn’t realize is that the guilt will only get worse as Riley’s recovery progresses and she starts to remember the very thing that Nora feels so guilty about.

I just adore Cronin's work. Her picture book, Diary of a Worm is just a hoot. So are the books featuring Farmer Brown's rambunctious livestock.Then there's the J.J. Tully series beginning with The Trouble with Chickens. And now, she's moving up to middle grade fiction with Cyclone.