Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas

Black History Month is coming up in February. Celebrate by reading the incredible picture book Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Colin Bootman, which honors the life of an inspiring man who deserves special recognition.

Vivien Thomas wanted to go to college and study medicine, but the money he had saved to go to school was wiped out when the stock market crashed at the beginning of the Great Depression. Instead, he found a job working for Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Blalock saw Vivien’s potential and taught him how to do medical research. Regardless of the roadblocks thrown at him because of his race and lack of degrees, Vivien Thomas developed medical techniques still saving babies’ lives today.

On her website, Gwendolyn Hooks explains it took her six years to research and write this book. The depth of knowledge and attention to detail shows. She also explains Vivien’s unusual name. She says his parents had picked out the girl’s name Vivian, but when they had a boy, they quickly changed the “a” to an “e.” A unique name for a unique man.

It would be impossible to review this book without mentioning Colin Bootman’s fabulous watercolor illustrations. They set just the right tone to accompany the thoughtful text.

Besides being an obvious choice for Black History month, Tiny Stitches fits in the curriculum a number of ways. For STEM, it could accompany units on the human body (see the discussion of Tetralogy of Fallot and a “Glossary of Medical Terms” in the back matter), and to show how the development of new technology (like tiny needles) is important to medical research. It is an excellent choice to learn about biographies, what they contain and how they are written. Another idea: elementary schools often have wax museums or other events were student dress up and portray famous historical figures. Vivien Thomas would be an ideal subject to inform and inspire future generations.

Tiny Stitches is an outstanding picture book biography. Share a copy with a child soon. Who knows where it might lead.


Age Range: 7 – 12 years
Grade Level: 2 – 6
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (May 15, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1620141566
ISBN-13: 978-1620141564


Disclosure: This book was supplied by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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