________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 3 . . . . September 30, 2005



Eric Walters.
Toronto, ON: Viking Canada/Penguin, 2005.
182 pp., cloth, $22.00.
ISBN 0-670-04465-2.

Subject Heading:
Insulin-History-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Shelly Tyler.

*** /4


He was tall and thin and wore a suit and tie. The suit seemed a little worn. He had a friendly face and little round glasses. My mother told me he worked up on the top floor beside where they kept the animals. I'd been up to that floor only once. It was the hottest part of the entire building, and there was the smell and the noise. Why did they even have dogs up there, and did they ever stop barking?


It is the year 1921, and 12-year-old Ruth has no choice but to be spending her summer at the University of Toronto where her mother has been hired to be a cleaner. By chance, Ruth meets Dr. Frederick Banting, before he has discovered insulin, a treatment for Type 1 diabetes. Dr. Banting and his partner, Mr. Best, are working long hours and in a private area of the university, away from the intrusion of the protestors who are against cruelty to animals. The scientists are using dogs to experiment on while trying to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

     Ruth gets involved with both the protesting group and also Dr. Banting, and she feels torn between her feelings for the dogs being used in the research and also her hope for a cure for diabetes. When Ruth meets a young girl who is dying from the horrible disease, she can see the reasons for Dr. Banting's commitments.


Arriving in the lobby I spied the girl, Emma, sitting in a chair against the wall.

I found I couldn't take my eyes off her. Without a doubt I'd never seen anyone that skinny in my entire life. It looked as if her skin were stretched over the bones of her face. Was something wrong with her? Why would anyone be like that?

     Elixir was well written, although I felt the introduction of the child suffering from Type 1 diabetes should have been introduced closer to the beginning of the story instead of near the end. This story hits very close to home for me as my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of two. I personally feel a sense of immense gratitude to Dr. Banting for his sincere commitment to finding a cure, and so this book gave me a small window into what his early research days would have been like. The story was clear for me, but I think the intended target audience might need more information on the disease, and some hard-hitting facts would have been more helpful. This is a book that should be in all school libraries. There are not a lot of up- to-date nonfiction books out there on Type 1 diabetes, let alone fiction relating to the disease itself. Young people with Type 1 diabetes will enjoy reading this early years account.


Shelly Tyler is a Reference Librarian for the Manitoba Department of Education Library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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