Date reviewed: 4/2/04 Age/Grade: YA IL 9-12 author’s website
Summary: Mattie Cook lives in Philadelphia during an outbreak of yellow fever. Set in diary form, Mattie describes the strained relationship between herself and her mother who continually admonishes her to act like a proper young lady though her grandfather enjoys her company as the three share responsibilities of running a coffeehouse. As each of the three are stricken with the fever, separated, and later reunited, we see Mattie taking charge of her own future. Sideline story of communities prejudices against the poor and minorities brought through very well.
Personal Reaction: I think that this realistic historical fiction would appeal to both boys and girls, though girls would be more apt to choose it. Excellent story, though graphic in description of treatment of ill people.
Points for discussion with children: yellow fever, epidemics, orphans, racism
Possible classroom uses: Social Studies teachers could use this during studies of the colonial period; science teachers during studies of epidemics, mosquito role in illness, even UNICEF programs.
Connections to other books? Students who like this may also appreciate Karen Cushman’s medieval historical fiction titles like The Midwife’s Apprentice, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare, fiction and nonfiction relating to yellow fever or epidemics (isolation/abandonment), especially here in Florida (mosquito country!)
Realia: enlarged photographs of mosquitos, period maps of Philadelphia, books on epidemics, coffee cup/grounds, walking stick, apron, stuffed parrot and/or cat
Food items connected to story: coffee