A Map of the Child A Pediatrician's Tour of the Body

Darshak Sanghavi

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Prompted by the realization that he's soon to become a father, pediatrician Darshak Sanghavi tells the story of children's astonishing development, from their beginnings as single cells to their rapid development into complex beings. Modeling his tour of the young body on the rounds of specialties at Boston's legendary Children's Hospital—where the author served his residency and now practices pediatric cardiology—he begins with the lungs and then moves on to the heart, blood, bones, brain, skin, gonads, and gut. In each case his relationship is with real children, their parents, and other doctors.

After Sanghavi describes how a newborn's lungs normally "open at birth like unfurled sails," we are introduced to Adam Flax, a premature infant whose lungs haven't developed, and marvel at the ingenuity of a procedure that saves his life. Later, we meet a child whose bone marrow transplant helps us to explore the immune system; a grade-school girl who grows too fast and sees ghosts, a condition that reveals the workings of the brain, and a teenage boy whose positive pregnancy test demonstrates how sex hormones work. Beyond such unusual cases we also learn about commonplace problems of interest to parents, including what causes diarrhea in babies, how asthma is treated, and how broken bones heal. From infancy to adolescence, Dr. Sanghavi reveals the workings of the developing body, describing what medicine can and cannot do when illness strikes.

Drawing on medical history, up-to-date research, and personal experience, A Map of the Child also considers controversial topics such as circumcision, chickenpox vaccination, child abuse, abortion, and alternative medicine, among others. And interwoven throughout the book are Sanghavi's descriptions of his struggle with illness in his own family.

With a nuanced, authoritative voice that doesn't shy away from complexity, Sanghavi provides a richly detailed—and humanized—portrait of modern medicine, which allows the reader to understand the miracle of a child's body.


Praise for A Map of the Child

"A delightful, quirky, awe-inspiring journey into the science and stories of the insides of little people. Who would expect a book about anatomy to be a page turner? But this one is. Sanghavi is a vivid and effortless teller of human tales and quite evidently a special doctor, too. Pick up the book anywhere. You'll find strange cases, fascinating discoveries, ingenious diagnoses, beautiful puzzles beautifully recounted. I defy you to put it down."—Atul Gawande, author of Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science

"A Map of the Child is a wonderful romp through the human body as seen through the eyes of a discerning and sensitive pediatrician. Sanghavi organizes his material by organ systems, but this simply gives him a launching point to take the reader on spellbinding excursions. His writing delves deep into the heart of what medicine is and the miracles and hazards of the voyage of childhood."—Dr. Abraham Verghese, author of The Tennis Partner and My Own Country

"Dr. Sanghavi teaches by example and complements his stories with science, medicine, religion, philosophy, and social commentary. Having watched Dr. Sanghavi's own development as a pediatrician, it is wonderful to observe the power that his personal learning experience can now have on others, be they medical colleagues, parents, or general readers. Indeed, Dr. Sanghavi provides a road map and directory for understanding the impact of illness on children as well as those who care for them."—Philip A. Pizzo, Dean, Stanford University School of Medicine

"A blend of interesting physiological information, fascinating anecdotes, and deeply personal stories."—Child magazine

"Through stories about patients he has cared for, he tells, for instance, how the lungs mature as well as how physicians treat asthma. Moreover, he tackles some of the most contentious issues in 20pediatrics, including circumcision, vaccinations, and teen pregnancy."—Science News

"An outstanding quality of this work is that it shows how the author handles controversial issues, such as abortion and child abuse, in an objective and level-headed manner. Sanghavi's humanism is encouraging in today's world of high-tech, bottom-line medical care. His very readable book is a good resource for parents, as well as educators, social workers, and healthcare personnel who interact with children."—Library Journal (starred review)

"[Sanghavi], a pediatrician and father, presents the complexities of his specialty in this engaging and informative medical narrative. Drawing on case studies, Sanghavi details what can go wrong in each part of a child's body and what medical science can or can't do about it. Sanghavi guides readers through his medical routine: in Japan, working with a team of pediatric cardiologists, he assists in the successful operation on a three-month-old infant with a blockage on the right side of his heart. However, despite the advances of medical technology, some children cannot be saved. Bobby, a five-year-old with cystic fibrosis, undergoes treatment every few months for his damaged lungs, but despite the best efforts of physicians his condition will continue to deteriorate. Throughout these accounts of seriously ill children, the author's strong commitment to his patients and his profession shines through. Although Sanghavi's initial motivation was to increase the reader's awareness of pediatric medicine, he comes to a personal realization that he has to make a leap from seeing 'lungs and hearts' to 'seeing whole people.' Especially moving is a description of the author's feelings of medical helplessness when his father was dying and there were no more treatment options."—Publishers Weekly

"Sanghavi seems to be the pediatrician all parents wish they had. He doesn't consider himself merely a health-care provider, nor does he view his patients merely as clients. Each patient has a name, a personal history, and a family. Even though he calls this book a map of the child's body, it is in no way a dry-as-dust word-map . . . Yes, Sanghavi carefully explains each organ's function and design, but interspersed with clinical information about the organ's major and minor diseases and disorders are explicatory anecdotes about patients, colleagues, friends, and family. Those stories, coupled with Sanghavi's reflections on such issues as alternative medicine and child abuse, reveal his humanity."—Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Darshak Sanghavi graduated from Harvard and Johns Hopkins University. He has done medical research in Japan, India, Kenya, and Peru, and until recently was a pediatrician for the U.S. Indian Health Service, during which time he lived on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Sanghavi is currently practicing pediatric cardiology at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and lives in Boston with his wife and son. He writes regualary for The Boston Globe and is a frequent guest on NPR.
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  • Darshak Sanghavi

  • Darshak Sanghavi graduated from Harvard and John Hopkins University. He has done medical research in Japan, India, Kenya, and Peru, and was recently a pediatrician for the U.S. Indian Health Service, where he lived on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. He is currently practicing pediatric cardiology at Boston's Children's Hospital and lives near Boston with his wife and son.