Friday, September 4, 2009

Informational Books

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy

Bibliographic Information:
Murphy, J. (2003). An American plague: The true and terrifying story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. New York: Clarion Books.

This is an account of the disease that spread through Philadelphia in the summer of 1793 nearly destroying the city and killing about 5000 people. Scattered throughout Murphy's disturbing narration are sketches, news clippings, paintings, and engravings that help to illustrate the destruction and devastation caused by the Yellow Fever. Actual journal writings and book excerpts are included to give the reader a sense of the horrific mess that was Philadelphia during this time.

Lead Comments:
The arguments, debates, and disagreements about the correct way to treat and the cause of the yellow fever are very interesting. I really enjoyed the various ideas of how the doctors went around tyring to treat yellow fever. The true devastation of what it must have been like in the late summer, early fall days in Philadelphia are expressed here by the letters, journals, and book excerpts that are included. I felt like I was experiencing the horror first hand. I could almost smell the fetid and decaying odors of the rotten coffee, the garbage and waste, the stagnant rain water, and the dead bodies. I could almost feel the oppressive, relentless heat. A truly great informational book.

School Library Journal:
This book tells the story of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia and its effect on the young nation. Students will become immersed in the dramatic narrative as they read how fear and panic spread throughout the country's capital. The author masterfully weaves facts and fascinating stories in describing the course of the disease and the heroic roles played by a few doctors and the free African-American citizens of the city. Black-and-white reproductions of period paintings, maps, and news articles enhance this absorbing title. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. (Retrieved November 10, 2009, from

From Booklist: (Excerpt)
History, science, politics, and public health come together in this dramatic account of the disastrous yellow fever epidemic that hit the nation's capital more than 200 years ago. Drawing on firsthand accounts, medical and non-medical, Murphy re-creates the fear and panic in the infected city, the social conditions that caused the disease to spread, and the arguments about causes and cures. With archival prints, photos, contemporary newspaper facsimiles that include lists of the dead, and full, chatty source notes, he tells of those who fled and those who stayed--among them, the heroic group of free blacks who nursed the ill and were later vilified for their work. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved (Retrieved November 19, 2009, from

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

Discuss with students the role of African Americans had in the survival of the city of Philadelphia. What would have happened if they had not come to the aid of the sick and poor? Imagine a time when filth and death were unrelated. Why does something so obvious to us seem so hard for them to comprehend?
Have students write an essay where they lived in Philadelphia in 1793. What did they feel, how could they help?

No comments:

Post a Comment