Review and Author Interview!: Ebola: Fears and Facts by Patricia Newman



Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Ebola: Fears and Facts
Author: Patricia Newman
Expected Published October 28th, 2015 by Lerner Publishing Group

Goodreads Summary: Ebola is a deadly contagious disease. From 1975 to 2013, it killed about 1,500 people. But a 2014 epidemic killed more than six times that number. At first the outbreak was contained to one country. But soon it spread to two others―the virus was on the move, and people were scared. When two American healthcare workers became infected and were sent to the United States for treatment, many people feared a pandemic―an outbreak that would spread all over the world. Could it happen?

Ebola: Fears and Facts takes you behind the sensational headlines to address questions and concerns about the virus. Learn about the history of the disease, its symptoms, and how it spreads. Find out how the 2014 epidemic compares to past Ebola outbreaks, as well as to outbreaks of other infectious diseases. With a question-and-answer section and reference maps, Ebola: Fears and Facts will help you to better understand this most-feared disease.

My Review: The Ebola epidemic of 2014 caused pure panic around the world. Because of the 24-hour news coverage of the disease as it entered the U.S, Ebola became a hot topic; however, there was so much misconception about the disease. As a teacher during the epidemic, I saw how scared students were of the disease and how little they knew about it. The text is a wonderful resource to help kids learn about the disease.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Patricia Newman’s middle grade nonfiction texts are a necessity for middle school classrooms. They teach the reader so much about the topic though do so in an interesting way to keep the readers’ attention. They are also about important topics that kids can make a difference by learning about. Her books, including Ebola, need to be available to students.

I really like how the book is set up. It begins with the history then goes into the way Ebola works and finally looks at the 2014 outbreak and how Ebola could possibly be conquered. It allows readers to navigate to the section they want or build up their knowledge from beginning to end.

Discussion Questions: What did you learn about Ebola that you didn’t know before reading?; What is the difference between Ebola and diseases like the measles?; How did the Ebola virus begin?; How is the Ebola virus a threat to apes in Africa?

“Truth or Hype?…The next time you come across a story about Ebola–or any topic–ask yourself the following questions. 1. What does the storyteller want us to remember? 2. How might different people understand the story? 3. Does the storyteller present facts or opinions? How do we know? What words are used? Does the storyteller quote scientific or eyewitness sources? 4. What action does the storyteller want us to take? 5. Do our emotions influence the way we evaluate the story?” (p. 35)

Author Interview: Thank you to Patricia for answering some of my questions!

What research did you do when writing Ebola? 

I visited East Africa several years ago, so I had a general sense of the landscape, the bush, the people, the cadence of their speech. But the crowded cities and steamy jungles of West Africa are different than the wide open savannas of the east. Of course, I needed to learn about the physiology of the disease, but I also wanted to know where in the jungle it came from and how it affected all aspects of peoples’ lives.

I interviewed a CDC epidemiologist who’d just returned from Liberia; read books by David Quammen and Peter Piot; deciphered scientific studies in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases; scoured the CDC, WHO and MSF websites for case counts and anecdotal information; and read every news story (or watched every video) I could get my hands on. I also interviewed a nurse at a Sacramento hospital near my home who specializes in speaking to children about serious illnesses. Her compassion and common sense were tremendously helpful. A small fraction of my sources are listed in the back of the book.

My nurse-source also gave me a full set of Ebola protective gear. I share it with students at school visits and talk to them about how health-care professionals put it on and take it off.

Why did you decide to research and write about Ebola?

My editor, Carol Hinz, came to me in November 2014 with the idea. Millbrook Press wanted to publish a book about the 2014 epidemic, and thought I was the person to do it. I was flattered by their faith in me and overjoyed with the way they handled Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, so I said yes. Carol and I learned a lot from this book. Because the deadline was so tight (my final manuscript was due February 1, 2015) we developed the outline together. Before we went to press, we revised or otherwise massaged every line in the book, always working to stay abreast of current reports. At one point I added several hundred words because of planned vaccine trials and Ebola survivors. Thank goodness Millbrook paid for a fact checker because the editing process became more and more chaotic. For example at one point in April, I gave an all-day writing workshop to a group of conservation scientists interested in writing their research for children. During my lunch break I had to edit Ebola one final time before it went to press!

What is the biggest misconception you have found about Ebola? 

I think there are two frequent misconceptions. The first is that Ebola is airborne like measles or the common cold. It is not, nor is it every likely to be. Ebola is spread by contact with bodily fluids (saliva, vomit, stool, sweat, blood, semen). Generally one person infected with an airborne disease spreads the disease to more people than one person infected with Ebola. For instance, one Ebola patient infects between 1.5 and 2 people. In comparison, one measles patient infects 18 others (assuming those people have not been vaccinated). NPR wrote an interesting article about this concept.

The second misconception is that Ebola is deadly no matter what we do. Based on our success treating Ebola patients in the U.S., and the successes in some of the vaccine trials, Ebola need not be a death sentence. Two factors that contributed to the high death rate in West Africa were the lack of education about communicable diseases and the lack of high-quality medical care.

As information about the disease changes rapidly, what would be the best resources for people who want to continue learning about the disease? 

News from the front lines altered the manuscript even as my editor and I were preparing it for printing, and I worried about how my readers will stay informed as our understanding of Ebola develops. I decided to include a sidebar in the last chapter of the book, Conquering Ebola, to help readers stay informed by sharing the Ebola pages for WHO, CDC, USAid, and Doctors Without Borders. For students writing Ebola reports, many of these sites have RSS feeds that will deliver information straight to their inbox.

What is the topic of your next book? 

I have a book proposal under consideration at Millbrook—hopefully the editorial team will decide to take it—so for now the topic is a secret. But I can tell you to expect more science.

We Flagged: “Ebola. The word calls up images of sick people in Africa and doctors wearing space-suit-like protective gear. Before 1976, however, Ebola was simply the name of a winding river in central Africa.” (p. 5)

Read This If You Loved: Plastics Ahoy! by Patricia Newman

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Patricia and Lerner for providing a copy for review and specifically to Patricia for the Q&A!!**

8 thoughts on “Review and Author Interview!: Ebola: Fears and Facts by Patricia Newman”

  1. This looks like a really great book to have available not only for children but also for adults wondering how to talk about this potentially frightening subject with children. The amount of unreliable information available about Ebola and other diseases is overwhelming, and it’s important that young people have access to high-quality information that’s clearly presented and easily accessible. Thanks for sharing this book, it definitely looks like something to check out.

  2. It’s terrific that she has given sites to be sure to find latest research about ebola. The book sounds fascinating. I was teaching a class when the talk everywhere was about the bird flu epidemic and some of my students were really afraid they would contract it. For middle grade and up, I’d hope that they could share the worries and then learn what’s really true. Thanks Kellee.

    • Yes, middle school students are old enough to want to know things but too young to know how to find reliable information. That is why texts like this are so important.


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