Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the
Never-Ending Search for a Cure. By Jim
Murphy and Alison Blank. 2012. illus.
Clarion, $17.99 (9780618535743).
Gr. 6–10. 616.9.
Queen of Hearts. By Martha Brooks. 2011.
Farrar, $16.99 (9780374342296). Gr. 7–10.
The tenacious tuberculous has prevailed
against medication for centuries, and
the search for a true cure is ongoing.
Beginning with evidence of tuberculosis
in a 500,000-year-old fossilized Homo
erectus skull, Invincible Microbe describes
ineffective treatments for the illness
in ancient Egypt and Greece before
tracing the disease’s course throughout
history, as well as the emergence of
drug-resistant TB as a serious modern
setback. Queen of Hearts tells the story
of 14-year-old Marie-Claire and her
relocation to a TB sanitarium after being
infected by the disease. Over nearly three
years, she suffers not only the crushing
physical symptoms of her disease but
also loneliness, fury at her parents, and
overwhelming sorrow and guilt when her
little brother dies.
The Voices of AIDS: Twelve
Unforgettable People Talk about How
AIDS Has Changed Their Lives. By
Michael Thomas Ford. 1995. Morrow,
$15 (9780688053222). Gr. 8–12. 362.1
Skyscraping. By Cordelia Jensen. 2015.
Philomel, $17.99 (9780399167713).
Though the initial crush of the AIDS
crisis has passed, the battle with HIV
and AIDS, both in developed countries
and in Africa, is ongoing. Rather than
take a scientific look at the disease, The
Voices of AIDS is a selection of traditional
interviews with 12 people who are
fighting against AIDS, sometimes because
they’re HIV-positive themselves, but
usually with a larger purpose in mind—to
make a contribution to AIDS education.
Jensen’s semiautobiographical novel in
verse, Skyscraping, delves into the heart
of the AIDS crisis in New York as college
senior Mira learns that that her father is
gay and that his days are numbered: his
HIV is turning into full-blown AIDS.
fever victims, in addition to the sprawling
effects of the disease.
Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of
the Deadliest Cook in America. By Susan
Campbell Bartoletti. 2015. illus. HMH,
$17.99 (9780544313675). Gr. 6–9. 614.5.
Deadly. By Julie Chibbaro. 2011. illus.
Atheneum, $16.99 (9780689857386).
Mary Mallon, now known as Typhoid
Mary, was an asymptomatic carrier of
typhoid fever and, through her work as a
cook, infected dozens of people in early
1900s New York. Bartoletti’s Terrible
Typhoid Mary details the public health
department’s investigation and eventual
discovery of Mallon as an unwitting
spreader of the disease. Quarantined
against her will for much of the rest of
her life, this raises questions about her
treatment, prejudices that may have
existed against her, and medical ethics.
Chibbaro’s fictional Deadly, meanwhile,
looks at things from the opposite
perspective: 16-year-old Prudence,
grieving the loss of her brother and father
and longing to fight death itself, takes a
job with the health department, where
she helps track down the source of an
outbreak. You guessed it: Typhoid Mary.
Jonas Salk: Creator of the Polio Vaccine.
By Salvatore Tocci. 2003. Enslow, $20.95
(9780766020979). Gr. 4–7. 610.
Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio. By Peg
Kehret. 1996. Albert Whitman, $14.95
(9780807574584). Gr. 3–5.
In the time before the vaccine, polio
could have disastrous, long-term effects,
especially for children, and fear of
the disease was especially rampant in
the 1950s. Jonas Salk introduces the
diligent and intelligent son of Russian
immigrants who developed the first
widely used vaccine. Public gratitude
elevated him to instant hero, though
many of his fellow scientists were more
critical. Kehret’s fictionalized memoir,
Small Steps, delves into the personal
side of the disease as she describes her
diagnoses with polio at the age of 12,
her seven-month ordeal (diagnosis and
quarantine, terrifying paralysis, slow and
difficult recuperation), the people she
encountered along the way, and the way
the disease impacted her later life.
Purple Death: The Mysterious Flu
of 1918. By David Getz. Illus. by
Peter McCarty. 2000. Holt, $16
(9780805057515). Gr. 3–5. 614.5.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds. By Cat
Winters. 2013. illus. Abrams/Amulet,
$16.95 (9781419705304). Gr. 9–12.
The 1918 pandemic of the Spanish
Influenza was particularly horrific, killing
3 to 5 percent of the world’s population.
Getz’s Purple Death discusses what made
this flu so deadly by drawing on the
author’s conversations with scientists in
addition to an extensive bibliography.
The book describes how vaccines work as
well as what today’s researchers are doing
to find the flu virus preserved in the
lungs of frozen bodies. Winters’ Morris
Honor Book, In the Shadow of Blackbirds,
places its heroine, Mary Shelley Black, in
San Diego directly in the middle of the
pandemic: the city is crawling with gauze
mask–wearing citizens fearful of catching
the deadly virus. Loss is everywhere,
and people, desperate and afraid, will
believe—and do—almost anything.