Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jarrow, Gail. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary.

Jarrow, Gail.  Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary.  Calkins Creek (Boyd's Mills)  2015  175p  $16.95  ISBN 978-1-62091-597-4  ms/hs  Nonfiction  E-BN     

Typhoid fever was once among the top five causes of death.  Once a rudimentary understanding of sanitation practices was reached, the number of cases began to dwindle, with some exceptions.  In those cases, careful detective work often led to identifying a carrier.  Mary Mallon was the first person thus identified.  Although Mary was completely healthy, she infected more than fifty people, several of whom died. 

At first, when Mary was identified, she evaded capture.  Eventually hospitalized and then confined to an island hospital, Mary denied her role in the spread of the epidemics up until her death.  As a cook, she had spread the infection to her clients.  These highly localized clusters of infected people identified her as the source of their illness.

The book also
provides information on how typhoid fever is contracted and treated, both then and now.  Additional material includes a list of famous people who contracted typhoid fever and whether they recovered or died.  There is also a glossary, a timeline of events, and a list of many sources for further information.

The author used primary source material as much as possible.  There is an author’s note detailing her process, as well as extensive source notes.  For all the historical accuracy, this title reads like a novel, and the story element makes the title accessible to younger readers.     

Summary: This title traces the identification, capture, and life story of “Typhoid Mary.” It includes biographical information about the leading characters in this historic medical mystery.  It is written in fiction-like style and is an enjoyable read about an un-enjoyable topic, for grades 6 and up.       

Typhoid, Typhoid Mary                                             --Joan Theal

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