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An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 First Edition
Contributor(s): Murphy, Jim

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ISBN: 0395776082     ISBN-13: 9780395776087
Publisher: Clarion Books
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Binding Type: Hardcover - See All Available Formats & Editions
Published: June 2003
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Annotation: In a powerful narrative, Murphy describes the illness that took its toll on the residents of Philadelphia in 1793, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. Illustrated with archival prints. Bibliography. Map.

Click for more in this series: Newbery Honor Book
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Yellow fever; Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; History; 18th century; Juvenile literature.
Yellow fever; Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; History; 18th century.
BISAC Categories:
- Juvenile Nonfiction | History | United States
- Juvenile Nonfiction | Health & Daily Living | Diseases
Dewey: 614.5/41/097481109033
LCCN: 2002151355
Lexile Measure: 1130
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 3-4, Age 8-9
Series: Newbery Honor Book
Book type: Juvenile Non-Fiction
Physical Information: 9.50" H x 7.00" W x 0.75" (1.45 lbs) 165 pages
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 69054
Reading Level: 9.0   Interest Level: Upper Grades   Point Value: 6.0
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q33632
Reading Level: 8.9   Interest Level: Grades 6-8   Point Value: 9.0
 
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.
Publisher Description:
1793, Philadelphia. The nation's capital and the largest city in North America is devastated by an apparently incurable disease, cause unknown . . .
In a powerful, dramatic narrative, critically acclaimed author Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on the city's residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. Drawing on first-hand accounts, Murphy spotlights the heroic role of Philadelphia's free blacks in combating the disease, and the Constitutional crisis that President Washington faced when he was forced to leave the city--and all his papers--while escaping the deadly contagion. The search for the fever's causes and cure, not found for more than a century afterward, provides a suspenseful counterpoint to this riveting true story of a city under siege.
Thoroughly researched, generously illustrated with fascinating archival prints, and unflinching in its discussion of medical details, this book offers a glimpse into the conditions of American cities at the time of our nation's birth while drawing timely parallels to modern-day epidemics. Bibliography, map, index.

Contributor Bio(s): IV>Jim Murphy is the author of An American Plague, which received the Sibert Medal and a Newbery Honor and was selected as a National Book Award finalist. His Clarion titles include THE BOYS' WAR and other award-winning nonfiction as well as a picture book, FERGUS AND THE NIGHT-DEMON. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, with his family. For more information visit www.jimmurphybooks.com.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2003 Fall)
Murphy culls from a number of historical records the story of the yellow fever epidemic that swept Philadelphia, skillfully drawing out the fear and drama of the time and making them immediate to modern readers. Attentive to telling detail, Murphy offers representative images, from black-and-white portraits to plague scenes. Thoroughly documented, with an annotated source list, the work is both rigorous and inviting. Ind. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Guide Reviews

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #4)
With his customary care, Murphy culls from a number of historical records the story of the yellow fever epidemic that swept Philadelphia in 1793, skillfully drawing out from these sources the fear and drama of the time and making them immediate to modern readers. Quoting diverse voices, from private diaries to published accounts, Murphy fills in the picture of a devastated town, including the spectacle of whole families dying unattended, the breakdown of civil society, the bitter controversy over treatment, the heroic services of the Free African Society, and the restoration of order as Mayor Clarkson's citizen-committee rose to the challenge. There was a constitutional crisis when Congress was unable to meet in Philadelphia and George Washington couldn't legally convene it elsewhere. Everywhere, Murphy is attentive to telling detail; he offers representative images in the illustrations, from black-and-white portraits of figures in the narrative to plague scenes themselves, often taken from (clearly labeled) European settings when the visual record didn't exist for Philadelphia. The chapters open with facsimiles of newspaper pages and lists of the dead, actual notices and announcements made during the plague. Thoroughly documented, with an annotated source list, the work is both rigorous and inviting. A final chapter answers questions readers may have about "what happened next"--including how science subdued the threat and how the genie might yet get back out of the bottle. Index not seen. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2003 March # 2)
In marked contrast to the clipped, suspenseful pace of his Inside the Alamo (reviewed above), Murphy here adopts a leisurely, lyrical tone to chronicle the invisible spread of the deadly disease that not only crippled Philadelphia (then the temporary capital of the U.S.) but also set off a constitutional crisis. The author evokes the stifling August heat as well as the boiling controversy surrounding President Washington's decision not to support the French in the war against Britain. The residents, so distracted by the controversy, did not take note of the rising numbers of dead animals lying in open "sinks," or sewers; swarms of insects festering, and a growing population of ill citizens climbing until the church bells tolled grim news of death almost constantly. Murphy injects the events with immediacy through his profiles of key players, such as local doctors who engaged in fierce debates as to the cause, treatment and nature of the "unmerciful enemy"-among them the famous Benjamin Rush. The text documents many acts of heroism, including the Free African Society's contributions of food, medicine and home care: the Society was rewarded afterwards only with injustice. Archival photographs and facsimiles of documents bring the story to life, and a list of further reading points those interested in learning more in the right direction. This comprehensive history of the outbreak and its aftermath lays out the disputes within the medical community and, as there is still no cure, offers a cautionary note. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2003 June)
Gr 6-10-If surviving the first 20 years of a new nationhood weren't challenge enough, the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, centering in Philadelphia, was a crisis of monumental proportions. Murphy chronicles this frightening time with solid research and a flair for weaving facts into fascinating stories, beginning with the fever's emergence on August 3, when a young French sailor died in Richard Denny's boardinghouse on North Water Street. As church bells rang more and more often, it became horrifyingly clear that the de facto capital was being ravaged by an unknown killer. Largely unsung heroes emerged, most notably the Free African Society, whose members were mistakenly assumed to be immune and volunteered en masse to perform nursing and custodial care for the dying. Black-and-white reproductions of period art, coupled with chapter headings that face full-page copies of newspaper articles of the time, help bring this dreadful episode to life. An afterword explains the yellow fever phenomenon, its causes, and contemporary outbreaks, and source notes are extensive and interesting. Pair this work with Laurie Halse Anderson's wonderful novel Fever 1793 (S & S, 2000) and you'll have students hooked on history.-Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2004 October)
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.
 
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