Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Readaloud: Fever, 1793

Tonight we finished this most riveting of readaloud books, Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. The book follows the story of a young teenager, Mattie, as she endures the yellow fever epidemic that hit Philadelphia in 1793. The descriptions of life before and during the epidemic are wonderfully rich. The bravery and character of Mattie are inspiring. There were several very poignant moments where my own voice was cracking while reading the story. It gave us a very good sense of what it might have been like to live through such a terrible times.

The book also provides ample material for discussion on:

•18th-century medical science
•the first hot-air balloon, which is part of the story
•the role of the Free African Society and of black people in general in Philadelphia
•how food supplies were historically affected by a health crises
•the state of yellow fever today and the history of yellow fever in our own city, Savannah
•how panic affects people's decisions
•why Philadelphia was the capital at that time

I'm so very glad we read this book. The kids weren't enthusiastic about starting it (and were clamoring for another Nancy Drew mystery!), but we all became very enamored of this book, and particularly of the main character, Mattie. A very inspiring story.

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