Fever 1793 (Laurie Halse Anderson)


Mattie Cook is a teenager who has to grow up in a real hurry. We first meet Mattie as a girl exasperated by her mother, flirting (1700's style) with a boy, whining because she doesn't want to help out in the family's coffeehouse, and whose biggest concern is how to finagle a piece of candy from her grandfather. By the end of the next few months in her story, she has buried that grandfather, survived the fever herself, seen enough sickness and death to last a hundred lifetimes, and transformed into a young woman who realizes that she has what it takes to run the family coffeehouse.

Thanks to this book, I learned that:
-There was a yellow fever epidemic in 1793 that killed around 5,000 Philadelphians.
 -Yellow fever was (and still is, in some parts of the world) contracted through bites of certain mosquitoes.
-There were conflicting viewpoints on how to treat the fever. Some doctors thought the pestilence must be bled from the victims. Others believed that clean water, fresh air, and liquids were the best treatment.
-The Free African Society of Philadephia was to thank for caring for so many sick people, turning away any attempts at compensation.
-Thousands of children were orphaned as a result of this illness.
-There were so many deaths that men rolled wheelbarrows throughout the city every morning calling for families to throw out their dead.
-Homes where yellow fever had been contracted were marked with a yellow strip of cloth tied to the porch railing, doorpost, etc.
-There was such fear of catching the disease that people fled to various surrounding smaller cities, which were guarded by armed men ready to send away or shoot any sick individuals who attempted to enter. 
These are only a few interesting facts that Fever 1793 teaches about this very dark period in American history. It is a magnificent piece of historical fiction.  

Additional links:
1. Museum of Philadelphia- http://www.philadelphiahistory.org/akm/lessons/yellowFever
2. Eyewitness to History-
http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/yellowfever.htm
3. The Role of African Americans-
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p1590.html
4.The author's website, containing Teacher's Guide, Playlist, etc.-
http://writerlady.com/Fever1793/