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  1. MINI MARGARET NELSON, Staff Paediatrician

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Essential paediatrics. Edited by Hull D, Johnston DI. (Pp 400, paperback; £24.95.) Churchill Livingstone, 1999. ISBN 0 44305 958 6

After coming to this country some years ago, I decided to take up paediatrics. I remember asking a senior colleague for advice regarding any textbook that would give me an introduction to the subject. She gave me a choice, but recommended thatEssential paediatrics, then in its third edition, would make easy reading. I must say I found this sound advice. Of course, as a postgraduate, one had to progress rapidly on to other textbooks considered the bibles of paediatrics. Hence, when I was asked to review the fourth edition, I was overwhelmed as it brought back memories of my first few months in paediatrics.

As the editors have noted in their preface, this book is meant for medical students. I find that this has been maintained with regard to the manner in which different subjects have been handled with easy to understand language and diagrams. I continue to find the first chapter, “The ill child”, the most impressive and compelling to read, and would not hesitate to recommend this to postgraduate doctors intending to take up a first paediatric post. A similar chapter that needs special mention is that on emotions and behaviour, which, in a brief but concise manner, describes children that we meet daily. It teaches us the importance of careful history taking, including social and family histories.

The book has been updated in many areas, especially in terms of management, in keeping with an evidence based approach. The addition of the British Thoracic Society guidelines on the management of chronic asthma is commendable. However, I cannot understand why the importance of the peak flow meter has been downplayed, unlike the previous edition which also featured a graph of normal PEFR values related to height.

On the whole, Essential paediatrics can be described as user friendly, with numerous relevant line drawings and important information in the margin and in highlighted boxes. Interesting and useful x rays have also been included in this edition.

Yet why does one get the feeling that this may not be the first choice textbook for many medical students? One reason, I would think, is the limited number of colour photographs compared with some other books on the market. Another reason, I would suggest, is the lack of adequate definitions of some of the common disorders—for example, coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis.

Despite some drawbacks, I find that Essential paediatrics is invaluable and have no qualms about recommending it to medical students as essential reading.