Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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

I chose the Newbery Honor Book An American Plague by Jim Murphy because I was intrigued by the story of the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged Philadelphia. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania and find myself drawn to any newsworthy event, current or historical, that took place in the Keystone State. I'll admit that I am not a big fan of nonfiction but wanted to give this award-winner a chance. As I began the read I was drawn in immediately. The story reads like fiction and kept my interest throughout. I thought it was most interesting when Murphy told about the great historical figures and everyday folk that were affected by the fever and the general thoughts about how to cure this horrible disease.

Honestly, I have read only a handful of nonfiction books on purpose. An American Plague reminded me of two nonfiction titles in particular: The Hot Zone and Lincoln: A Photobiography. Both of those titles were extremely well written and enthralling from the very beginning. The Hot Zone, like An American Plague, told the story of disease and the feeling of helplessness as the epidemic took hold. Doctors in both situations were racing to find the cause and cure of a deadly infection. Lincoln: A Photobiography, on the other hand, written by Russell Freedman, reminded me of the fact that there are writers who are so skilled in their craft that they are able to pull the reader into the story and keep them enthusiastically turning the pages to the very end.

I would certainly recommend An American Plague. History buffs will find the facts about our nation's capital in 1793 an interesting read as they discover George Washington leading the nation from outside the capital and our government faltering slightly under the strain of the plague. Others will find the history of yellow fever and its effects on Philadelphia gripping. They will also realize that there is still no cure for this horrible disease and know that those who contract it will have to endure the same symptoms described in this book.

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