Monday, April 6, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Fatal Fever: Tracking down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow

I was absolutely fascinated by Jarrow's Red Madness, but I had a hard time seeing an audience for it at my library. This newest title, however, for some reason strikes me as a much easier sell with the the more prominent mystery aspect.

The book focuses on three characters who were pivotal in the fight against typhoid: George Soper and Sara Josephine Baker, public health officials, and Mary Mallon, who became known as "Typhoid Mary". The story moves back and forth between the confrontations with Mary and the struggle to decide what to do with the first known healthy typhoid carrier and Soper and Baker's fight to investigate, contain, and eradicate the deadly disease of typhoid. The final chapter talks about the continued threat of typhoid today and ongoing scientific study of the disease.

Back matter includes a psa to remind people to wash their hands, a photo montage of famous people who suffered from typhoid, glossary, timeline including outbreaks, a lengthy selection of further resources for more information, an author's note talking about how she became interested in writing this book and her writing process, source notes, bibliography, and index.

What made this, to me, so much more accessible than Jarrow's previous book (awesome though it was) was that the people in the story felt so much more immediate and relatable. It's also just a more engaging story overall - lots of elements of mystery and adventure with the added drama of death and disease. It was fascinating to see how Jarrow managed to portray the complicated issues of epidemics, quarantines, individual and collective rights from many different perspectives.

Verdict: This was absolutely riveting and I think will be of interest to any middle grade kids who are interested in history or just an exciting story. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781620915974; Published March 2015 by Calkins Creek; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015

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