In contrast to most writing on science and medicine targeted at the general public, Darshak Sanghavi's A Map of the Child: A Pediatrician's Tour of the Body is an example of expert storytelling a true page-turner. A pediatrician and medical researcher, Sanghavi has worked chiefly at Boston's Children's Hospital, but also in rural Appalachia, Japan, Kenya, Peru and in Navaho country for the Indian Health Service. His profession has provided him with a wealth of illuminating stories that he weaves together seamlessly in his first book.
His wife's positive pregnancy test, confirming that he was to become a father, influenced Sanghavi's decision to write A Map of the Child. The narrative is structured as a guide to the organ systems of the pediatric body lungs, heart and brain, for example. It explains how they develop, explores the things that can go wrong with them and shows how those things can be made right. Although the child is the major focus, Sanghavi takes a broader view, writing "with the hope that understanding medicine and disease can itself be healing." That understanding can improve the odds of having a healthy newborn, as well as comfort a family dealing with a child's illness.
Sanghavi celebrates the medical advances that have saved the lives of countless children. Among the many examples he describes are surfactants, super-slippery substances that now rescue most of the more than 20,000 babies born each year with immature lungs. But he's also aware of the limitations still to be overcome: bone marrow transplants can work miracles, although only when the match to the recipient is near-perfect. One of the book's most moving narratives relates the death of a teenager whose transplant didn't work.
Sanghavi's broad perspective encompasses a range of topics, from anatomy and physiology to such controversial subjects as circumcision, vaccination for chicken pox and alternative medicine. Compelling, thoughtful and informative, A Map of the Child deserves a wide audience. Albert L. Huebner, a physicist, writes on science for numerous publications.