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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 Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A poignant and achingly beautiful narrative shedding light on the price of a violent sport.

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BEFORE THE EVER AFTER

An African American preteen finds his world upended when his father, a retired professional football player, displays symptoms of traumatic brain injury.

Twelve-year-old Zachariah “ZJ” Johnson Jr. loves his dad but wonders who he would be if his dad was not a famous athlete. Although his dad is in the spotlight, he is full of love and attention for ZJ and his friends. And fortunately, ZJ has three friends who see him and not his father’s shadow. “Zachariah 44” was a fearless player who suffered many concussions during his playing career. The changes in his father begin slowly and intermittently. Soon the headaches and memory lapses grow increasingly frequent and scary for ZJ and his mom, since the doctors do not seem to have any answers. As his dad slips further away, ZJ’s memories of better times grow closer than ever. Using spare and lyrical language for ZJ’s present-tense narration, which moves back and forth through time, Woodson skillfully portrays the confusion, fear, and sadness when a family member suffers from brain injury and the personality changes it brings. Readers see Zachariah Sr. through ZJ’s eyes and agonize with him as the strong, vibrant athlete begins to fade. The well-rounded secondary characters complete a mosaic of a loving African American family and their community of friends. The tale is set in the early 2000s, as awareness of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its catastrophic consequences was beginning to emerge.

A poignant and achingly beautiful narrative shedding light on the price of a violent sport. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54543-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A poignant and relevant retelling of a child immigrant’s struggle to recover from an accident and feel at home in America.

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LUCKY BROKEN GIRL

In the 1960s, Ruthie Mizrahi, a young Jewish Cuban immigrant to New York City, spends nearly a year observing her family and friends from her bed.

Before the accident, Ruthie’s chief goals are to graduate out of the “dumb class” for remedial students, to convince her parents to buy her go-go boots, and to play hopscotch with other kids in her Queens apartment building. But after Papi’s Oldsmobile is involved in a fatal multicar collision, Ruthie’s leg is severely broken. The doctor opts to immobilize both legs in a body cast that covers Ruthie from chest to toes. Bedridden and lonely, Ruthie knows she’s “lucky” to be alive, but she’s also “broken.” She begins collecting stories from her Jewban grandparents; her fellow young immigrant friends, Belgian Danielle and Indian Ramu; her “flower power” tutor, Joy; and her vibrant Mexican neighbor, Chicho, an artist who teaches her about Frida Kahlo. Ruthie also prays and writes letters to God, Shiva, and Kahlo, asking them for guidance, healing, and forgiveness. A cultural anthropologist and poet, the author based the book on her own childhood experiences, so it’s unsurprising that Ruthie’s story rings true. The language is lyrical and rich, the intersectionality—ethnicity, religion, class, gender—insightful, and the story remarkably engaging, even though it takes place primarily in the island of Ruthie’s bedroom.

A poignant and relevant retelling of a child immigrant’s struggle to recover from an accident and feel at home in America. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54644-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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