Book review: Breakthrough! How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever, by Jim Murphy

Murphy, Jim.   Breakthrough! How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever. Clarion,  2015. $18.99   ISBN: 9780547821832. 130p. Grades 5-12. P5 Q9

Murphy BreakthroughThis engaging book is about of open-heart surgery in the U.S. in the 1940’s, specifically surgery to treat a structural heart defect known as tetrology of Fallot, one of the causes of “blue baby” syndrome. While the book presents a clear description of how this syndrome was discovered and treated, the outstanding feature of this book is how the author managed to bring in issues of racial and sexual discrimination and how overcoming those at Johns Hopkins played in to the success of this surgery. In particular, the background information presented on gifted surgeon Vivien Thomas, an African-American laboratory assistant at Johns Hopkins, illuminates his incredible dedication under the duress of racism. Though the book is written for lower grades, it’s fascinating and challenging enough for adults.

January 2016 review by L.F., NHS Staff

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