Tiny Stitches

By School Library Journal

A picture book biography about the genius and research of Vivien Thomas, who pioneered open-heart surgery for infants, specifically to treat newborns afflicted with tetralogy of Fallot, or blue baby syndrome, a previously fatal condition. Trained as a carpenter and working alongside his father by age 13, Thomas dreamed of going to college. After losing his savings in the October 1929 stock market crash, Thomas accepted a job at Vanderbilt University as a research technician under Dr. Alfred Blalock. Expressive watercolor illustrations depict Thomas’s dedication. He is shown practicing techniques, working in the lab, and researching in the library. The narrative covers many examples of the racism that Thomas faced, including less pay, housing discrimination, and the press’s failure to acknowledge his development of what was later named the Blalock-Taussig shunt. By focusing on the enormous talent and skill of Thomas and depicting instances in which he was dismissed by white coworkers and by the media, the text is an insight into not only this innovator’s life but the social and institutional conditions that allow for African American contributions in medicine and science to go largely unrecognized. Extensive author’s notes provide more information about tetralogy of Fallot and about Thomas himself. VERDICT An important addition for STEM or biography collections for its exceptional coverage.