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An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 (Newbery Honor Book) Hardcover – June 23, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Framing the tale as a kind of mystery, Murphy starts slowly. He introduces us to some of the characters that would become important during the disease's height. As we read we find ourselves in the hot steamy smelly streets of Philadelphia. President Washington is having some difficulties with his Proclamation of Neutrality regarding the French. The Reverend J. Henry C. Helmuth is proclaiming that soon the city will be feeling God's displeasure due to Philly's rampant debauchery. And in a small boarding house on North Water Street, a French sailor has come down with a fever. The plague has begun.
Murphy's excellent at picking up the pace in this story.Read more ›
Politicians, the medical community, common people, orphans, the poor are all brought to life before our eyes and we feel their pain, we share their misery, and we gain insight into what life was like for them during this terrifying time.
Author Jim Murphy chronologically follows the beginning of this epidemic, making us feel as if we were actual witnesses to this American Plague, using quotes from those who were there, newspaper clippings, period engravings and portraits.
Additionally, we are shown true acts of courage and selfless behavior as Mr. Murphy tells us of great men and woman who risked their lives to help their fellow people, and some who ultimately sacrificed their lives. He also unravels the controversies, particularly among the medical community in regards to the reaction to the disease and discusses bloodletting, ingesting poisons, bathing in vinegar, purging air with gunpowder, inhaling black pepper as well as other practiced modes of treatment.
Some people may find the descriptions of the disease and the progression of the illness horrifying, but it is truth nonetheless, Yellow fever is nothing short of horrific. I believe this fascinating book is truly deserving of the many awards it has earned. This very visual and brilliantly written book is a great tool for you to use in teaching this part of our nation's history to your children.
He goes on to explain the unfortunately major role of yellow fever as a U.S. killer for over a century. We then learn how scientists eventually discovered the cause (mosquitos carrying the virus) and a vaccine.
Murphy's inclusion of relevant details adds to the evocative account of the tragedy itself. For example, we feel the irony when - in the midst of doctors and quacks expounding a range of potential ways to avoid the fever - an unknown author submits a letter to a newspaper suggesting that city residents kill the mosquitoes hatching in their yards. The remedy is not heeded. Likewise, in the midst of the panic that the epidemic created, a meteorite actually lands in the middle of the city, adding to the apocalyptic frenzy.
This book is an excellent introduction to the importance of public health issues in U.S. and world history. I sent a copy as a gift to a young friend with a taste for history today.
(Special note on the audio version narrated by Pat Bottino: he sounds too much like sportscaster Howard Cosell for my taste, with every sentence delivered as a sharp staccato.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to read this for a school project. It was one of the worst books I have ever read. It's written in a way that makes the reader want to leave the after reading one page. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Liked the ending the best. Info was good, though I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator. Well organized and interesting look into what plagues look like, physically, socially, and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Burgundy Damsel
My son read this as one of his summer reading projects. He learned a lot!Published 6 months ago by Cindy
This book is very well written. Historical facts are accurate. Well worth the read. I highly recommend it.Published 10 months ago by Colleen T. Martin
My fifth grader read it for a book report. He enjoyed it (and got A+)Published 10 months ago by Barbara F
In August 1793, the capital of the new United States, Philadelphia, was in the grip of a heat wave. Suddenly, in the poorer quarters of the city, the poor began to sicken and die... Read morePublished 11 months ago by The Reviewer Formerly Known as Kurt Johnson
This book provides a good context for urban life and disease epidemiology in the colonial period of American history.Published 11 months ago by Kindle Customer