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AN AMERICAN PLAGUE

THE TRUE AND TERRIFYING STORY OF THE YELLOW FEVER EPIDEMIC OF 1793

A mesmerizing, macabre account that will make readers happy they live in the 21st century. The yellow fever epidemic of 1793 snuck up on the people of Philadelphia during the hot summer; by the end of the year, some 10 percent of the city’s population lay dead. Drawing heavily on primary sources, Murphy (Inside the Alamo, p. 393, etc.) takes readers through the epidemic, moving methodically from its detection by the medical community; through its symptoms, treatment, and mortality; its effects on the populace, and what Philadelphia did to counter it. Individual chapters recount the efforts of the heroes of the epidemic: the quasi-legal committee of 12 who took over the running of the city government; the country’s preeminent physician, Dr. Benjamin Rush; and the Free African Society, whose members toiled valiantly to ease the victims’ pain and to dispose of the dead. 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. The account of Philadelphia’s recovery wraps up with a fascinating discussion of historiography, detailing the war of words between Matthew Carey, one of the committee of 12, and Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, the leaders of the Free African Society—interesting in itself, it is also a valuable lesson in reading and writing history. Stellar. (bibliography, illustration credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10+)

Pub Date: April 21, 2003

ISBN: 0-395-77608-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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Timely, engaging, and full of heart.

DRESS CODED

A spirited eighth grader and her friends leverage the power of social networking to fight their school’s oppressive dress code.

Students are furious when the class campout is canceled because fellow student Olivia contravened the dress code. That changes after Molly persuades Olivia to tell the embarrassing story on her new podcast. Going public at first worsens her mortification; both girls are targeted by bullies. Then, as Molly’s podcast followers mount, others post photos of dress-code shaming on Instagram, revealing the harm caused by policing girls’ appearances while ignoring social, cultural, and economic realities that govern their lives and clothing choices. Talia’s hair (she’s Trinidadian) triggers the dress code. While Molly’s pre-pubertal figure is ridiculed by an obnoxious classmate (Megan, with cerebral palsy, knows how that feels), her violations of the dress code are ignored, but girls with curvier bodies are repeatedly sanctioned. When district administrators ignore their petition to end dress coding, students strategize next steps. Molly, a refreshingly average student gifted with empathy, has a brother who deals vaping paraphernalia, stressing her white middle-class family financially and emotionally. Diverse secondary characters include several with disabilities. Beyond code inequities, everyday issues like family stress and active-shooter lockdowns complicate the lives of these appealing characters. Vividly conveyed, their almost-palpable adolescent angst is at once uniquely contemporary and timeless. Readers will root for them as they discover that taking action makes an effective antidote.

Timely, engaging, and full of heart. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1643-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The story will resonate with those on both sides of the debate about the role of youth football in society, and the unusual...

GAME CHANGER

A young athlete lies in a coma while his family and community try to determine the cause of his injury.

Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood collapsed following an intense football practice. At first, the focus is on his injury and the concerns of his family and friends for his recovery. Counselors are brought in to help them with the trauma. The coach’s daughter, Camille, makes a social media page to encourage positive thoughts, but some of the posters hint that something other than a tough hit at practice caused his injury. The doctors encourage family and friends to talk to Teddy, and readers learn much through these comments. Teddy’s family is at odds. His mother, who lives apart, did not want her son to play football, while his dad supported his sports involvement. Also interspersed are Teddy’s thoughts as he lies in the hospital: “This is what life is / Life is football / Football is life.” This nontraditional narrative, using conversations, interview transcripts, text messages, hospital reports, and other documents, skillfully peels back the elements of the mystery. The issues of football’s violence are presented, but the book’s real strength is the depiction of the culture behind it. There are few descriptions to indicate the ethnic makeup of the characters (Teddy’s eyes are described as blue), implying the white default.

The story will resonate with those on both sides of the debate about the role of youth football in society, and the unusual storytelling technique sets it apart from most sport fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3143-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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