Saturday, November 26, 2016

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

genre: middle grade non-fiction

Probably you have heard of Typhoid Mary: the woman who shed and shared her typhoid bacteria with all the people she cooked for as a housekeeper. She's infamous, that Typhoid Mary. But who was she? And what were the circumstances that led to her infamy?

I didn't know this was the middle grade novel when I checked it out from the library but I will say that as an adult, I learned a lot. The book does a good job of not only fleshing out the details of what we know about Mary but also gives a substantial social history of the time, especially focused on public health departments, the emergence of epidemiology and the ethical and moral issues of contagious disease. Did they have a right to lock Mary away when she wasn't sick? Should a judge trust laboratory results enough to make huge life-changing decisions for people who have otherwise committed no crime?

While not condescending, the tone is very much eager to teach readers and I think middle school students interested in the subject or studying any of these topics in school would find this a great resource.

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