Review: Thank You, Dr. Salk

Thank You, Dr. Salk! The Scientist Who Beat Polio and Healed the World

by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Mike Dutton

Farrar Straus Giroux Books For Young Readers (imprint of Macmillan)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Belinda Brock

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Thank You, Dr. Salk introduces us to Jonas Salk as a child, an unlikely hero who figures out that there is more than one way to be brave. Inspired by his desire to heal the world, and specifically to eliminate polio, he demonstrates determination and a strong work ethic to realize his dream.

The author relates Dr. Salk's life of study and scientific research in an uncomplicated and easily understandable way. Jonas Salk is a warm and relatable hero who will capture children's interest.

The bright and engaging illustrations enhance the text and reinforce how important Dr. Salk and polio research was to the community. Dutton creates appealing and detailed urban neighborhoods of an earlier era filled with people of diverse backgrounds and skin tones.

The kid-friendly back matter includes an author’s note furnishing more details about polio research and Jonas Salk’s life, a brief section explaining how vaccines work, and a historical timeline of various vaccines.

One of the throughlines in the book is the concept of tikkun olam, explained as healing the world. This is, in fact, what motivated Jonas Salk to study hard, become a doctor, and develop a vaccine against polio.

Education, preserving life, helping people, being part of a community—traditional Jewish values—were all important to Jonas. In fact, he did not patent the vaccine he created—he preferred to share it with the world.

The style, vocabulary, format, and illustrations are all appropriate for the book's targeted age level of four through eight. The book is filled with authentic and detailed illustrations that evoke the time period of the 1940s and 1950s.

Thank You, Dr. Salk is as timely as a book can be and will offer an easy entree to discussions of epidemics, scientific research, vaccines, and working together as a community. Parents, teachers, and librarians will be interested in sharing this book with young readers. This is a true story that will help kids think deeply about the past, make connections to the present, and inspire hope for the future.

This book meets the Sydney Taylor Book Award criteria.
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Belinda Brock earned a MS in Literacy and Language from University of Chicago and her background is in teaching and educational publishing. She authored GG and Mamela, the first children’s book to address hospice care. Her essays have been featured on Kveller, Jewish Women’s Archive, and HuffPost. She has a picture book biography being released in 2022.