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American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793by Jim Murphy
A 2004 Newbery Honor Book
Synopses & Reviews
1793, Philadelphia. The nation's capital and the largest city in North America is devastated by an apparently incurable disease, cause unknown...
In a powerful, dramatic narrative, critically acclaimed author Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on the city's residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. Drawing on first-hand accounts, Murphy spotlights the heroic role of Philadelphia's free blacks in combating the disease, and the Constitutional crisis that President Washington faced when he was forced to leave the city — and all his papers — while escaping the deadly contagion. The search for the fever's causes and cure, not found for more than a century afterward, provides a suspenseful counterpoint to this riveting true story of a city under siege.
Thoroughly researched, generously illustrated with fascinating archival prints, and unflinching in its discussion of medical details, this book offers a glimpse into the conditions of American cities at the time of our nation's birth while drawing timely parallels to modern-day epidemics. Bibliography, map, index.
"A mesmerizing, macabre account that will make readers happy they live in the 21st century....Powerful, evocative prose carries along the compelling subject matter. Even as the narrative places readers in the moment with quotations, the design aids and abets this, beginning each chapter with reproductions from contemporary newspapers and other materials, as well as placing period illustrations appropriately throughout the text." Kirkus Reviews
"Jim Murphy has once again created a masterful, impeccably researched book that both enthralls and horrifies the reader." Children's Literature
"Murphy chronicles this frightening time with solid research and a flair for weaving facts into fascinating stories." School Library Journal
"Nobody does juvenile nonfiction better than Murphy. Here, in his usual transparently clear and well-paced prose, he tells the story of the yellow fever outbreak that paralyzed Philadelphia in 1793....There are enough gruesome medical details to satisfy even the most ghoulish tastes, but also plenty of serious history." Washington Post
In a powerful narrative, Murphy describes the illness that took its toll on the residents of Philadelphia in 1793, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. Illustrated with archival prints. Bibliography. Map.
About the Author
Jim Murphy is the author of An American Plague, which received the Sibert Medal and a Newbery Honor and was selected as a National Book Award finalist. His Clarion titles include The Boys' War and other award-winning nonfiction.
Table of Contents
No one noticed — "All was not right" — Church bells tolling — Confusion, distress, and utter desolation — "It was our duty" — The prince of bleeders — "By twelve only" — "This unmerciful enemy" — "A delicate situation" — Improvements and the public gratitude — "A modern-day time bomb."
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