Tag Archives: epidemics

Very, Very, Very Dreadful by Albert Marrin

Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Albert Marrin. January 9, 2018. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9781101931479.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1040.

From National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin comes a fascinating look at the history and science of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic–and the chances for another worldwide pandemic.

In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people–one-third of the global population at the time–came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.

In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge–and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Acclaimed for incisive explorations of America’s bleakest moments, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (Flesh & Blood So Cheap, 2011) to WWII-era Japanese internment camps (Uprooted, 2016), Marrin homes in on the “most deadly disease event in the history of humanity.” Raging from early 1918 to mid-1920, the influenza pandemic, aptly dubbed the “devil virus,” crescendoed in three lethal waves, spanned continents, and claimed an estimated 50- to 100-million lives worldwide. In six riveting chapters, Marrin examines the virus’s precursors, including past plagues and prior medical breakthroughs, its aftermath, and its festering backdrop—the congested trenches and training camps of WWI. While the pandemic’s scope is broad and undiscerning, Marrin’s approach is the opposite. With razor-sharp precision, he carefully presents genetic mutations, coffin shortages, the disease’s devastating grip on colonized Africa, the direct correlation between women working as nurses and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and much more. Marrin’s conclusion, too, pulls no punches; after all, when it comes to future pandemics, it’s not a matter of if one will occur, but when. Fusing hard science and “jump-rope rhymes,” first-person accounts and crystalline prose, cold reason and breathtaking sensitivity, Marrin crafts an impeccably researched, masterfully told, and downright infectious account—complete with lurid black-and-white photos throughout. This is nonfiction at its best.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
A comprehensive history of the influenza pandemic of 1918, the worst global killer that humankind has experienced. Historian Marrin (Uprooted, 2016, etc.) begins four years earlier, at the beginning of World War I. Liberally referencing research, partial statistics, diaries, medical records, newspaper articles, art, photographs, poetry, song, and literature, Marrin works to give an accurate depiction of the circumstances and ill-timed incidents that led to the global catastrophe, which killed at least three times as many people as the war worldwide. The author does not neglect the squalor around the globe: ill soldiers in trenches and overcrowded barracks, suffering families, orphaned children, hunger and undernourishment, and deaths so numerous that bodies are stacked upon bodies. Marrin reveals how scientists and doctors knew little about influenza a century ago, as surgeons and physicians didn’t practice routine hygiene or quarantine and were often rendered helpless; in fact, he argues (albeit briefly) that nurses turned out to be most useful against influenza, for they provided supportive care. He then brings the eye-opening narrative to the present, detailing the search for the origins of influenza; recent scientific breakthroughs; the emergence of the H5N1 strain; and how, without intending to, scientists have brought the virus to a risky, imminent pandemic. Not one to shy away from unnerving details, Marrin relays what researchers and scientist express today: another influenza pandemic will unquestionably strike again. (notes, bibliography, further reading, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Albert Marrin is an award winning author of over 40 books for young adults and young readers and four books of scholarship. These writings were motivated by the fact that as a teacher, first in a junior high school in New York City for nine years and then as professor of history and chairman of the history department at Yeshiva University until he retired to become a full time writer, his paramount interest has always been to make history come alive and accessible for young people.

Winner of the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal for his work, which was presented at the White House, was given “for opening young minds to the glorious pageant of history. His books have made the lessons of the past come alive with rich detail and energy for a new generation.”

His website is www.albertmarrin.com.

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Great Pandemic Resource Lists

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The Ebola Epidemic by Connie Goldsmith

The Ebola Epidemic by Connie Goldsmith. February 1, 2016. Twenty-First Century Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9781467792448.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1160.

An ordinary blue thermos holding blood samples from a sick nun in Zaire reached Belgium’s Institute of Tropical Medicine in September 1976. From the samples, researchers discovered a new virus, which they named the Ebola virus after a river in Central Africa. The virus killed two hundred eighty people before it seemingly disappeared into the jungle. No one suspected the virus would erupt in West Africa nearly four decades later to cause an unprecedented epidemic.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Clinical discussion of death and dying

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 7))
Grades 7-10. The 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa may have caused widespread—and, in some areas, overblown—panic about the disease, but in many ways, medical response to the epidemic was underwhelming. This comprehensive guide begins with the story of the initial discovery of the virus, in 1974, and elaborates on the nature and dangers of the disease before going into the most recent occurrences and their aftermaths. Though it doesn’t make light of the very real and devastating effects Ebola can have on families and entire communities, this is also careful not to contribute to sensationalism: Ebola is a dangerous virus, yes, but not a particularly efficient one, with diseases like the flu killing many more people each year. Goldsmith cites an editorial that compared the Ebola paranoia in the U.S. to that of fearful attitudes during the AIDS crisis before discussing the initial, inefficient international response to the incident and the ongoing search for a cure. A solid, valuable look at a still-mysterious illness and a tumultuous time in recent history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2015)
Welcome to the you-better-be-Brave New World of emergent viruses. Much of this crisp and informative book chronicles the Ebola outbreak that savaged Liberia and parts of neighboring countries in September 2014. Goldsmith, a veteran health/science writer, knows how to invest readers in her story. Here, with the help of a swarm of photographs and maps, she explains how the virus found its way to Liberia–an engrossing story in itself–which necessitates a little background information. Goldsmith delivers science in a serious yet welcoming tone (no one gets talked down to); pathology can be fascinating in its own right, but Goldsmith makes the development of vaccines and rapid-result Ebola tests just as absorbing. There is good material on Doctors without Borders as well as on the locals who took part in the effort to educate people about the nature and transmission of the virus. There is also a pithy explanation of viruses–“Not really alive, yet not quite dead, viruses are the zombies of the microscopic world”–including their ability to shift shape, which makes designing a vaccine so difficult. Meanwhile, a creepy image of the virus snakes across the pages, innocent-looking as spaghetti or yarn, deadly as a blue-ringed octopus. An arresting, illuminating, and unlikely-to-be-forgotten story. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Connie Goldsmith writes books about history, health, and science for older children. An RN with a master’s degree in health, Ms. Goldsmith lives near Sacramento, California.

Her website is www.conniegoldsmith.com.

Teacher Resources

Ebola Outbreak Lesson Plans

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The Ebola Epidemic on Amazon

The Ebola Epidemic on Goodreads

The Ebola Epidemic on JLG

The Ebola Epidemic Publisher Page