Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary
Author: Gail Jarrow
Published: March 10, 2015 by Calkins Creek
GoodReads Summary: In March 1907, the lives of three remarkable people collided at a New York City brownstone where Mary Mallon worked as a cook. They were brought together by typhoid fever, a dreaded scourge that killed tens of thousands of Americans each year. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary is the first middle-grade trade book that tells the true story of the woman who unwittingly spread deadly bacteria, the epidemiologist who discovered her trail of infection, and the health department that decided her fate. This gripping story follows this tragic disease as it shatters lives from the early twentieth century to today. It will keep readers on the edges of the seats wondering what happened to Mary and the innocent typhoid victims. With glossary, timeline, list of well-known typhoid sufferers and victims, further resource section, author’s note, and source notes.
Review: This narrative nonfiction essentially begins with in media res—Typhoid Mary is running from people who want to catch her and take her blood. By chapter two, the text shifts back to the history of typhoid fever and gives readers a no-nonsense look at the gory realities of this horrid disease. My father and brother are doctors and my mom was a nurse, and I was finally able to take part in medical conversations at a family gathering! It would have been easy for the author to slip into the extreme technical details of this disease, but she does an excellent job balancing science, history, and story. I was engaged in the book from beginning to end. I never thought I would find the sanitation systems in the early 1900s to be so fascinating!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students will read this book and want to learn more about other deadly epidemics in history. They would likely be interested in the ways this disease still impacts countries today. I found Typhoid Mary’s story to be very interesting, and I wanted to learn more about medical scapegoats in history. All in all, this book inspires readers to want to learn more about medical topics. I imagine this book would be a good choice for students interested in medical professions, but it will also captivate students who are interested in science and history. This makes it a true interdisciplinary text.
Discussion Questions: How was Typhoid Mary treated by the community? Why? Do you think she deserved her treatment at the end of her life?; What other diseases have impacted history? How do they compare to typhoid fever?
We Flagged: “She didn’t know it, but she wasn’t alone in that cramped, cold closet. Deep insider her body, billions of deadly microorganisms were hiding, too.”
Read This If You Loved: Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow; Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank
*Thank you to Kerry at Boyds Mills Press for sending this book for review!*