Gory bits of information offered in brief text and amusing cartoon illustrations combine for a quick exploration of various epidemics throughout history.
Problems, like diseases, are legion in this entry (and the three others in the Sickening History of Medicine series). Each double-page spread provides ever so superficial coverage of a major epidemic, including the Black Death of 1346-1353, malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. Illustrated panels include some vignettes related to the disease but seemingly chosen for their value to titillate and to amuse more than to inform. One box, “Don’t Blame the Rats,” reports that Black Death may have first originated in gerbils rather than rats, although on the next spread a “Plague Pathway” shows and describes the usual mode of transmission from rats as well as gerbils to fleas to humans, leaving the rats…blameworthy. There are no source notes to indicate where these “facts” were collected, but many appear dubious: “If someone throws up, their vomit often seems to contain carrots even if they haven’t eaten any! These are actually parts of the stomach lining that have come off,” is typical. The humorous, neatly rendered illustrations are eye-catchingly bright, by far the best aspect of the series. Other entries suffering from the same issues but to a lesser extent are Quacks & Con Artists, Strange Medicine, and Tiny Killers.
Pass this regrettable title and its companions by. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)