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A Book That Shows That Failing Can Eventually Lead To Progress

That is true if one doesn't give up, one tries different approaches and perseveres.

Science is about experimenting with different approaches to either invent or discover something that is useful to humankind. Many a time, this process can get frustrating for a number of reasons. If scientists and researchers had chosen to simply get bogged down by failed experiments and given up, we wouldn't have progressed as much as we have.

Based on a real story, the book Fred and Marjorie, A Doctor, A Dog And The Discovery of Insulin written by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Angela Poon is a graphic novel meant for the 10+ age group. The Young Readers were taken in by the cover even before they read the blurb. They were eager to read this book. Although this is a wonderfully illustrated and finely written graphic novel, the content itself is not meant for a 'jolly' read but for more of a thought provoking, serious read, as it takes the reader to the horrific times when diabetes killed even children and doctors were at loss not knowing how to help them. It is also complex at some level as it describes the science behind how diabetes is caused and how insulin as a means to treat the same was discovered.

An advanced reader can easily read in between the lines, decipher how difficult the research process is, how frustrating it can get every time an experiment fails and how these scientists were determined to find a way. They did not give up hope. They learnt from their failures and forged ahead by working extremely hard. The batch that chose to read this book had advanced readers who have been on the club for more than a year. They were moved by this book as they deciphered little by little, talked about the hardships involved, the emotions involved and towards the end, they were left in awe of the scientific process.

They were moved by this book as they deciphered little by little, talked about the hardships involved, the emotions involved and towards the end, they were left in awe of the scientific process.

The need for rigorous testing and proof to make any scientific discovery acceptable

The book also brings to life the need for rigorous testing, recording results systematically for analysis, using data to support the efficacy of a proposed treatment for a deadly disease are some aspects the book helps bring about. It gives the readers a clear picture of what it is like to be experimenting in a lab with given resources to find a cure to a disease that has been taking lives of many people.

Emotional attachment or detachment - which is more suitable in scientific research?

It is standard practice to use numbers to refer to subjects who are used for experiments. A dialogue between the doctors/researchers in the book led to an interesting debate in the group. In the context being referred to in the book, Dr. Charley refers to the dogs by numbers assigned and through his conversation with Dr. Fred, he reveals to the reader the common practice to refer to lab animals by numbers rather than give them names as emotional attachment must be avoided at all costs in science for the sake of objectivity. Although Dr. Fred agrees with this common practice, he can't help himself and uses names to refer to the dogs. While Dr.Charley's note on the general approach definitely made sense and as readers we were ready to accept this dictum until the point one of the young readers raised the following perspective,

"Using a name leads to emotional attachment, yes. But it also deepens the researcher's resolve to find a cure or solution."

When there is emotional attachment, failure hurts even more. Could that lead to giving up or could that strengthen the desire to find a way so that the life lost due to a failed experiment, still gets to have some meaning? These are hard questions to answer. There is no black and white perspective here. One fact though gets established. Being a scientist isn't easy. It involves a lot and is not for everyone's cup of tea. Having said that the fruit of one's hard work over extended periods of time is definitely sweet and satisfying. It is simply a matter of individual's choice.

An inspiring book that gives information about a potential career choice

The book helps showcase the thrill behind discovering new information that could transform medicine going forward. A fantastic source of inspiration to be curious, ask questions and look for answers, this is a book that must be read by every pre teen and teen. Career choices are difficult to make. Books such as these give readers a peephole view of what it is like to be in a profession of this kind and what it takes to be there, trying to make a difference.

Quoting Dr. Langer's words about Dr. Katylin Kariko, the amazing scientist credited with the mRNA technology for developing vaccines in recent times,

“There’s a tendency when scientists are looking at data to try to validate their own idea,” Dr. Langer said. “The best scientists try to prove themselves wrong. Kate’s genius was a willingness to accept failure and keep trying, and her ability to answer questions people were not smart enough to ask.”

Perhaps in the future there would be a children's book written about Dr.Katylin Kariko and she would inspire children to always be curious, ask questions, work towards finding answers and accept failure just as the Fred and Charley in the book demonstrate through their research.


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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Executives' Club program offers spoken and written communication skills development course for the 12-14 age group.

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