In October 2015, a teenage Oregonian was diagnosed with bubonic plague. Seriously.
That week, we did some reading about it and the history of the plague in the every-other-day Reading Enrichment class I taught. The kids were fascinated and horrified, just as I’d hoped they’d be.
A few months later, when I was at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston, I picked up an arc of Gail Jarrow’s Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America.
I shared my arc with my students and added it to my classroom collection. It has been out a lot! The final book was published earlier this month and has already received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews, and is a Junior Library Guild selection.
Chapter one opens with a personification of the disease.
The killer was a master of stealth. It moved undetected, sneaking from victim to victim and always catching its targets by surprise.
Their end usually came after three or four horrific days of suffering. For a few – the ones spared that agony – life drained away in hours.
Jarrow is a superb storyteller and the rest of the book reads like a medical thriller. The book includes disturbingly fascinating photos and drawings that will have readers of all ages turning pages quickly, then rubbernecking to learn more.
Writer’s workshop these last few months have been about informational writing and we’ve spent a lot of time discussing text features and the layout of modern informational texts. Bubonic Panic incorporates the best of these, without becoming distracting.
There is ample back matter, including a glossary, timeline, further resources, author’s note, bibliography, source notes, picture credits,and index, all of which will lead to further investigation.
Publisher’s Summary: In March 1900, San Francisco’s health department investigated a strange and horrible death in Chinatown. A man had died of bubonic plague, one of the world’s deadliest diseases. But how could that be possible? Bubonic Panic tells the true story of America’s first plague epidemic—the public health doctors who desperately fought to end it, the political leaders who tried to keep it hidden, and the brave scientists who uncovered the plague’s secrets. Once again, acclaimed author and scientific expert Gail Jarrow brings the history of a medical mystery to life in vivid and exciting detail for young readers.