Saturday, August 21, 2021

Fred and Marjorie: A Doctor, a Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin

Kerbel, Deborah and Poon, Angela (illus.) 
Fred and Marjorie: A Doctor, a Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin
August 15th 2021 by Owlkids
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In the early 20th century, Fred Banting trained to be a doctor, and did an internship at a children's hospital, where he saw how devastating a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes could be. When he was finished, he tried to set up his own practice, but had little luck attracting patients. When he had an idea about how to treat diabetes, and how that might be studied, he went back to the hospital to ask if he could do some studies. He was not an expert in the field, but he was given a small space and an assistant, Charles Best. The study involved taking stray dogs, removing their pancreases to make them diabetic, and then treating them with shots of what came to be called insulin. This worked fairly well, but many of the dogs died. Fred took this very hard. The two continued to work on refining the drug, eventually synthesizing it from cow pancreases as well. The titular Marjorie was a dog of whom Banting was particularly fond, who survived much longer on the insulin than the other dogs, and is credited with helping with the development of the treatment for the disease. 

I read this in digital form, which makes it very difficult to go back and get details!

Strengths: Set in the early 1920s, this book looks the part with the soft illustrations that give a good glimpse into what the world looked like at the time. While the science is key to this book, the problems of using dogs for experiments is not treated lightly, and Banting is shown being very conflicted about this. Like many scientists of the time, he even injected insulin into himself, but needed the animals to help make sure the treatment was safe for humans. It was interesting to see how primitive the research conditions were 100 years ago; now, we think of sterile labs provided by megabucks pharmaceutical companies, not struggling doctors working in cramped offices! I hadn't realized that insulin treatments for diabetes had only been around for 100 years. This book is a great way to bring attention to this historic development. 
Weaknesses: Every year, I have some sensitive readers who ONLY want to read about dogs. This would NOT be a good book to hand to them, because they would be devastated. 
What I really think: Diabetes is certainly something that affects more of my students than other conditions, and there are not a lot of graphic novels about science, so I may buy this one, even though information about the dogs was so sad, and the pictures just made it sadder. 
 Ms. Yingling

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