- Age Range: 12 - 15 years
- Grade Level: 5 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 980 (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (August 4, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0544313674
- ISBN-13: 978-0544313675
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America Hardcover – August 4, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—This well-researched biography of Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, begins in 1906, when Mallon was hired as a cook for a wealthy family vacationing in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The outbreak of typhoid that swept through the household a few weeks later turned out to be a pivotal event that forever changed her life. George Soper, a sanitation engineer and typhoid expert, was hired to discover the source of the disease. He eventually determined that Mallon was what was known as a healthy carrier: although she experienced no symptoms of typhoid, her body continued to produce the bacteria, which she inadvertently shed. Soper took his discovery to the New York City Board of Health, and soon thereafter, Mallon was arrested and quarantined against her will on North Brother Island. Mallon has often been described as ignorant and a menace to society due to her refusal to stop working as a cook when she was later briefly released from quarantine, but Bartoletti tells the woman's story with empathy and understanding. The author also explores the myriad violations of Mallon's civil rights and her unusually harsh treatment in comparison to other healthy typhoid carriers (nationwide 50 carriers were identified at the time, but only Mary was quarantined). Energetic, even charming prose (chapter headings include "In Which Mrs. Warren Has a Servant Problem") will easily engage readers. Pair this work with Gail Jarrow's Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary (Boyds Mills, 2015). VERDICT Middle grade biography lovers will gravitate toward this compelling title.—Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
—School Library Journal, starred review
* "Expertly weaving together both historical background and contemporary knowledge about disease and public health, Bartoletti enlivens Mallon's story with engrossing anecdotes and provocative critical inquiry while debunking misconceptions."
—Booklist, starred review
"[A] thoroughly researched biography."
* "Bartoletti skillfully weaves the answers into the beginning of the story, before moving on to Soper's cat-and-mouse game of tracking Mary down and then keeping her quarantined for most of the rest of her life...excellent nonfiction."
—Horn Book Magazine, starred review
"A very comprehensive and engaging account of the sad life story of Mary Mallon."
"Bartoletti delivers a fast-moving biography of Mallon herself...Enthusiastic and accessible, but it remains respectful, offering understanding and empathy for the numerous people affected by the outbreaks that followed in Mallon's wake."
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Top Customer Reviews
Little nine-year-old Margaret was the first to fall ill, but not to worry, children often came down with things. It soon became evident that this was no ordinary illness when “her fever persisted, spiking as high as 105 degrees.” Delirium was certainly not something to be taken lightly nor was bloody diarrhea. The verdict of course, was that little Margaret, with her “telltale skin rash,” had typhoid fever. The disease was contagious and five more people in the household contracted it. Certainly it was something in the water so the house soon became vacant and Mary Mallon would need to find yet another place of employment.
Mr. And Mrs George Thompson, owner of the house in Oyster Bay, were alarmed at the prospect that they had a sick house. Something had to be done and they hired Dr. George A. Soper, “a sanitary engineer who was considered an expert epidemiologist.” If anyone could solve the mystery of the typhoid-ridden household, it would be Soper. His tenacity and excellent detective skills soon sent him on the trail of Mary Mallon. By process of elimination the only source of the “Salmonelli typhi” was the thirty-seven year old cook. Mary was seemingly the epitome of good, robust health, but she was one of those lethal “healthy carriers.” Would he be able to stop her before her hands infected and possibly killed someone else?
This is a very well-written historical overview of “Typhoid Mary,” Mary Mallon. Most young readers have at least had a glimpse at Mary’s life, most likely in a science text. There are many aspects of her life that they don’t know about, especially how she was captured by the the New York City Department of Health. In addition to Dr. Soper, we also meet another doctor, the inimitable Dr. (Sara) Jospephine Baker, Dr. Joe. I found the journey to be a fascinating one, bringing to life a character I’d heard so much about, but obviously knew practically nothing about. In the back of the book is a timeline of Mary’s life (1845 to 1939), source notes, and an expansive bibliography. Many of these book and website resources would make excellent stepping stones for further research in many areas.
I had preconceived, negative thoughts about Mary Mallon, but once I read TERRIBLE TYPHOID MARY, they disappeared; I appreciated that Bartoletti helps readers sympathize with her. At the same time, I liked that Bartoletti not only told Mary’s story, but also discussed the culture and ideas of the period; it was easy to understand why individuals believed certain biological. The author also integrated various sources into the book to clearly and factually illustrate what Mary's life was like.
Although it’s not the author’s fault, I sometimes found the lack of available information frustrating --- many conversations with Mary Mallon were not documented and there is little information about her family life.
At the beginning of TERRIBLE TYPHOID MARY, Bartoletti warns that people uncomfortable reading about diseases should not continue reading the book, and I agree. However, I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy reading about medical conditions and history.
Reviewed by Hasnah Farraj
The author also includes a detailed Timeline that starts with the Great Irish Famine caused by potato blight to the publication of another biography of Mary written by George Souper. Mr. Souper had methodically investigated how typhoid could be spread in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. As the author went through the steps that Souper carried out, she also explained how typhoid is spread and how the living conditions could contribute to it. Souper’s encounters with Mary Mallon add excitement to this book. Also Dr. Josephine Baker or Dr. Joe, was shown to be one of the few who was able to see Mary Mallon’s point of view. Mary Mallon herself had a temper and was not above cursing but she did like to read. It is easy to figure out that there may have been ways that Mary could have avoided her enforced time on North Brother Island. This book opens up issues for thoughtful discussion for the young readers.
I would be delighted to read more nonfiction by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Susan Campbell Bartoletti not only blasts a long-held image of Typhoid Mary as a...Read more