From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-There's plenty to think about and discuss in this diary-format novel based on the notorious case of Mary Mallon, also known as "Typhoid Mary." It's 1906 and 16-year-old Prudence is in her final year at a school for girls where cultivating the skills and charms necessary to attract a financially secure husband is the primary educational objective. The school allows senior students to seek part-time secretarial work but, unlike most of her classmates, Prudence isn't interested in being an ornamental "Gibson Girl." Instead, she craves a job where she can actually make a difference. She's always been scientifically curious, particularly regarding the nature of infection and disease. She's seen way too much ugliness growing up among the impoverished tenements of New York City and assisting her midwife mother. When she lands a position as assistant to an epidemiologist working for the Department of Health and Sanitation, she quits school completely to help investigate the microbial mystery of Mary Mallon, an immigrant cook and suspected "healthy carrier" of typhus, who adamantly denies she's been unwittingly infecting a series of employers' families and instead insists she's the victim of anti-Irish discrimination. A deeply personal coming-of-age story set in an era of tumultuous social change, this is top-notch historical fiction that highlights the struggle between rational science and popular opinion as shaped by a sensational, reactionary press.-Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The year is 1906. Sixteen-year-old Prudence lives in a New York City tenement with her mother and attends a school where she feels like a misfit. Haunted by memories of her brother’s painful dying and by unanswered questions about her father, who never returned from the Spanish-American War, she longs to fight death itself. Prudence takes a job with the health department, where she helps track down the source of a typhoid outbreak, a healthy carrier now remembered as Typhoid Mary. Written as a series of journal entries, the story opens rather bleakly as Prudence writes about her family’s poverty, her sense of loss, and her loneliness. But as she discovers a sense of purpose, the narrative becomes increasingly involving and satisfying. In an author’s note, Chibbaro comments on her research and her own family history. Occasional line drawings, evidently representing Prudence’s sketches, illustrate the text. An absorbing historical novel in which the heroine’s professional goals take precedence over matters of the heart. Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan