Cover Image: Fred & Marjorie

Fred & Marjorie

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Around the world, diabetes has become an epidemic, which makes this graphic novel biography an essential book to add to the library collection, especially collections serving ages 8 through12.  In 1921, a young Canadian doctor, Dr. Fred Banting, embarked on the study of this disease and its relationship to the pancreas. His perseverance led to the discovery of insulin's critical role in the treatment of diabetes. It was not an easy discovery as the research involved the use of dogs, the longest living being Marjorie, as the test subjects. The back matter includes photos and a crucial discussion of ethics of animal experimentation, 
which would be an essential discussion for the older student. Diabetes, Types 1 and now 2,  runs in my family (uncle, sister, son) so I am forever grateful to the researchers and the animals who have been involved in the investigation this disease. Thank you to netgalley and Owlkids for the arc
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This book offers a detailed yet simple overview of how insulin was used and the story of the dogs that helped. It was heartbreaking reading about how dogs were experimented on, but I liked that the author didn’t shy away from addressing it in the afterword area. They openly admitted about the gaps in the story and unethical use of animals. The graphic novel style gives an emotional side that just reading the story would leave out. We could see the emotional dilemma Fred faced using the dogs. Very good book and it’s interesting to learn.
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Thank you to Owlkids Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this title. 

Fred & Marjorie is a nonfiction graphic novel that tells the story of the discovery of insulin. It tells readers about the man and dogs that saved millions of lives. I'm not normally a huge fan of graphic novels, but I love science almost as much as I love dogs so this pulled me in pretty quickly. I learned a lot about the history of diabetes and insulin from this book. It's sure to be a hit with middle-grade readers.
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I'm willing to bet that most kids don't give an thought to insulin at all, much less about how it was developed. So the average young reader will find this a bit of a hard sell. Which is a shame since its a pretty compelling read. It helps that Kerbel presents the information as a narrative. We learn about the characters involved and their motivations. Many will struggle with the animal experimentation as a concept. Still, a kid with an interest in medicine might enjoy this one.
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Although I found the history shared in this story fascinating, I found the death of the dogs disturbing. I realize animal experiments and haphazard research led to amazing scientific discoveries, and it's clear that Dr. Banting loved animals, but many young readers struggle with dogs dying in books. I don't know that they'll be able to see past Marjorie's death to appreciate her sacrifice. I felt sad finishing the book and I wonder about the reaction of young readers.
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A lovely graphic novel biography about the discovery of insulin. The art is picture book worthy and while the story is a little bit fictionalized, the extra information in the back matter clears up any elaborations taken for the purposes of the narrative.
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A graphic novel picture book that tells the true story of how Fred Banting along with Charles Best, J.R.R. Macleod, and James B. Collip used experiments with dogs to develop insulin and save children from dying of diabetes.

I really appreciate the notes in the back of the book about what is true and what is imagined, and both sides of the debate on whether or not it is ethical to use animals in medical testing. The book itself is matter of fact in relating the history, but also tactful in how things are presented (like surgeries are briefly talked about but never shown). I do appreciate that it is documented how much Banting loved dogs and how when he lost any of the dogs in the experiment it really broke his heart and he promised that Marjorie would be remembered. The illustrations are fantastic and help convey the time period and emotions of the people involved. I’m sure it will be mind-boggling to many readers that a childhood diabetes diagnosis used to be a death sentence. This is a fairly quick read, as it is only 56 pages long, so a very approachable nonfiction picture book/graphic novel for middle grades about a very important discovery in medical history.

Notes on content: No language issues or sexual content. There are some dog deaths mentioned. Deaths of children with diabetes are also mentioned.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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In 1920, Frederick Banting worked at at the hospital for sick children in Toronto, Canada. He watched young people waste away and die from juvenile diabetes. Doctors knew that the disease was connected to the pancreas and had something to do with being unable to break down sugar. They just didn't understand how it all worked. 

His position in Toronto was only temporary, so Banting went on to set up a private practice in London, Ontario. There must have been an overabundance of doctors because it wasn't a success. He ended up getting a job teaching anatomy and surgery at the University of Western Ontario. He never forgot those sick children.

While preparing a lesson on the pancreas, Banting had an aha moment. He discussed his new idea for a treatment for diabetes with J. J. R. Macleod, Professor of physiology. Banting was an orthopedic surgeon with no background in research or diabetes. Still, he was given funding for a lab for one summer, an assistant, Charles Best, and a group of dogs to work with. They removed the pancreas from half the dogs to make them diabetic. They lost many dogs before managing to isolate a mysterious secretion from one dog in the other group. They gave this to one of the diabetic ones and it was a success. In spite of Best's warnings, Banting grew emotionally attached to the dogs they worked with, especially Marjorie, a stray that followed him home. In fact, Banting considered the dogs to be heroes whose role in the research was as important, maybe even more important than the researchers themselves. 

At the end of the summer Professor Macleod extended their use of the lab and finally gave them salaries for their work. They managed to keep Marjorie alive for more than 70 days. At one point Fred tested the insulin on himself to prove that it wasn't toxic for humans. Eventually Macleod brought in James Collip, a biochemist to work them to purify the extract for humans. 

In 1922, a fourteen year old boy received the first shot of the newly purified insulin. He began to improve almost immediately. 

I appreciate how Angela Poon's artwork places the reader right into the 1920's. The lab Banting and Best worked in is very different from labs of today. I appreciate the details in the characters faces. If I can find out more about her process I will add that information. I want to know how she manages to capture the essence of the times so brilliantly!

There is an author's note in the back matter with additional information about the discovery of insulin. There is also a section on ethics and the controversial use of animals in research. If readers want to learn more, there a bibliography titled Sources. 

We need more stories like this one. We need to be inspired by the generosity and humanitarianism of people like Banting, Best, and Collip. We need more people like them. These men, who created the formula for insulin, sold their rights for the treatment for $1 each. None of them were rich. In fact, Banting barely made ends meet until he was finally given a salary. 

In contrast, today disaster capitalists manufacturer and sell insulin at prices so high that individuals with the disease die because they can't afford their medication.
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Non-fiction graphic novels are always a toss up. This one I think does a good job balancing information and photos, whereas sometimes the information overload can come across dry. It may be too rough of material for kids, especially animal lovers, as the experimentation and research with dogs is a dark bit of scientific history.
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I received an electronic ARC from Owlkids Books through NetGalley.
Kerbel takes readers through the history of Doctors Banting and Best as they worked to help children survive Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1).  Dr. Banting had an idea in the night and, with Dr. Best, pursued it through trials using dogs. The book takes readers through Dr. Banting's residency until it is used in the first human trials. Further informative text is provided at the end.
A first look at this process for middle grade readers.
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😭😭😭 This was very interesting and informative, and so sad. I’m not surprised or bothered in theory that science advances by real life testing and that often involves animals, but it still had me very emotional. I didn’t realize that insulin was so “young”, like my grandma was born before insulin existed. It’s amazing how far that has come in that time to modern insulin pumps.
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Fred & Marjorie is a beautiful, harrowing book about the discovery of insulin. Dr. Banting begins researching the pancreas and how to help children with Juvenile Diabetes, which until his discoveries, was a death sentence. He begins using dogs to research the pancreas and pancreatic secretions. Children may have a difficult time with animal experimentation, but the dogs' sacrifice is appreciated and noted. I loved how the story is presented in a scientific, but also includes emotional aspects of running these experiments. I even teared up at the end, but it was followed with such a beautiful, uplifting message. This would be an excellent reference for middle grade students, maybe grade 3 and up. 

Thank you Owlkids Books and NetGalley for providing this ARC.
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When I first came across this book, I was very intrigued by it. I never really knew the whole story of the discovery of insulin, so this was really a great chance to educate myself on this topic.  The storytelling is done well. The illustrations are beautiful, its style suiting the period it is set in. 

It made me really sad for the number of dogs that had to die for the sake of the experiment. Which is the reason why I don't think I would introduce this book to my kids if I had them. Maybe wait till they're at least 10 YO. But if you want to, you can go for it. It can be a good opportunity for educating the kids about the contribution of animals in the field of medicine. I really have mixed feelings about this though. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. Thank you Netgalley and Owlkids Books for the ARC of this book.
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I don’t know what I was expecting from Fred & Marjorie but it certainly wasn’t a horror story about how many dogs were killed in the service of discovering insulin.

Was this important information to know? Yes, likely. Did it cause me some trauma that I’m still having trouble rectifying? Oh my yes. Should you read this to yourself to prepare yourself before jumping in and letting your kids read it? Absolutely. Then come up with some ways to talk about it with your kids (if you have kids who are reading it) that can contextualize the killing of dogs in the service of humanity.

The main reason I’m having trouble with this story is that upon first glance it seems like a book with a heroic connection between a man and his dog and how they saved lives, but it turns out that the actual connection between the (admittedly amateur) scientist “Fred” and the stray dog “Marjorie” is pretty minor. Yeah, Marjorie was accidentally the dog who gets the hero shot toward the end of the book, but the bond with Fred seems very cursory and perhaps even fabricated.

My main takeaway from the book was very briefly mentioned: the process for making Insulin was released into the public domain for the public good. But nevermind because big pharma will continuously update and patent new versions of insulin production over the years and it will eventually make billionaires out of the pharma bros.
Overpriced insulin makes me very very angry, so when I’m trying to set aside my despair at the number of dogs that were used as test subjects for this research, I plunge directly into a anti-pharma rage.

My apologies. Please remember that I am in no way writing a review. I’m just reacting to the reading, and this particular reading was a bit of a roller coaster not entirely of its own making.

The pictures were lovely. There were gaps in the story that were explained in the end notes, but I wish I knew more about some of the pieces of this story. Sometimes there were facets of it that just didn’t fit together for me and I couldn’t tell if I was just too impatient or if it was a matter of plotting or if there just wasn’t the material to draw on.

Look, I’m glad I read this. It’s good context for current U.S. insulin woes. And it makes me want to learn more about how we went from point A to point Z. Currently people are dying because they can’t afford medicine that should be free. It’s crazy making, and having this context helps me place insulin in history.
I feel like I’m spinning my wheels now. Gotta go lie down for awhile.
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I got this from NetGalley and Owlkids Books. A carefully written graphic novel by Deborah Kerbel of pretty, detailed drawings by Angela Poon. Based on a true story of the discovery of insulin, Fred & Marjorie is educational as well as an interesting and well paced story for anyone, but especially kids. It is well researched with the true story at the end, and provides many of the important details without overwhelming. The illustrations are old fashioned looking to meet with the time period and provide subtle clues in art to know location/setting, time period, etc. The book was overall enjoyable. I was brought to tears on more than one occasion. A must have for school libraries. 5 stars.
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This graphic novel is a narrative of the discovery of insulin, discussing the disease, the research process and medical testing on animals, at an age-appropriate (grades 2-5) level. Fred Banting was a new doctor trying to set up a traditional private practice after a residency at Toronto's Hospital for Children in 1920. He had been affected by the children he saw die of childhood onset diabetes, and the dearth of treatment available. One night he had a revelation, tying together snippets of what was known at the time about the disease, and made a back-of-the-envelope proposal to Dr. JJR MacLeod of the University of Toronto. In a 'let's put on a show' spate of pulling things together (a dingy lab, a lab assistant, meager salaries, test animals...) the research project is born. The book raises the issue of animal testing by attesting to how attached Dr. Banting was to the dogs they used in the lab and how they suffered and died as a natural consequence of the research. This seems an even-handed juxtaposition of the pain and mortality of the animals, and the eventual good that comes from it. There is a brief essay at the end of the book discussing the 'ethical dilemma' of animal testing, but I wish it included readily available sources for researching the issue further. This is a great story well-told, and the graphic novel format will bring readers to the topic of medical research who might not otherwise have strayed there.
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This book is an interesting story that is not well known. Using a graphic novel style is a fun way to get the story across but due to the vagueness of parts of the story it is a little choppy but this is explained in the explanation narrative. I think this narrative is needed but do not think that younger readers will read the explanation so it might limit their understanding of the story. Overall, interesting story and great illustrations.
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Fred and Marjorie by Deborah Kerbel tells the remarkable story of Dr. Frederick Banting, and his life-saving discovery of insulin in 1921.  Along with his assistant Charles Best, and numerous street dogs, Dr. Banting was able to experiment on the pancreas, his research leading to the discovery of insulin which has saved countless lives over the last century.

While the story offers scientific data, it is presented in such an accessible way that most school-aged children will easily grasp the subject matter.  The relationship between Dr. Banting and his test subjects, particularly a stray named Marjorie, is quite moving, and a fitting tribute to the sacrifice of these heroic animals.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Owlkids Books for an ARC of this title.
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