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.