Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History
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Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  201 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Did the Black Death destroy the feudal system? Did cholera pave the way for modern Manhattan? Did yellow fever help end the slave trade? Remarkably, the answer to all of these questions is yes. Time and again, diseases have impacted the course of human history in surprisingly powerful ways. From influenza to small pox, from tuberculosis to yellow fever, Bryn Barnard descri...more
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Crown Books for Young Readers
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Community Reviews

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Kelly
I was very intrigued by the cover art. The format for this book is the size of a picture book, but the text is overabundant. I am concerned that the struggling readers at my school will pick this up thinking it is an easy read. Then they will be overwhelmed by the text. I am curious to find out the reading level of this book. I would put it around grades 10-12. I had difficulty with some of the language and had to consult a dictionary, even though there is a one page glossary in the back of the...more
Ngaio
I love disease history so I was incredibly excited to finally get to this book. That excitement quickly turned to distress as numerous red flags appeared.

It started when I saw how completely this book mischaracterizes the Middle Ages. The author's rather obvious bias against religion was equally distasteful.

I read on hoping it would get better and found the rest of the book to be of mixed quality. I knew it was only supposed to be an overview given its length (my copy has 134 pages, although g...more
Jenny
I thought I might read this with my 6 year old, who is very into bacteria and viruses right now. Not more than two pages into it we read a description of how the bubonic plague, when a person was exposed to it via the lungs, could be fatal in a few hours. My son jumped off the couch and said "No thanks mom. I don't want to read this anymore. It will give me nightmares."

Well, I finished the book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The author gave such a neat historical twist to diseases that I thought I...more
Christian
Let me begin by saying this is not necessarily the book you want to read just before you spend the weekend with the kids, one of whom spends the entire time essentially incapacitated with a fever.

That said, it is an interesting book. My complaints pretty much run consistent with those expressed by Abby (the) Librarian. For starters, the format is awkward. It appears to be a picture book, but it is extremely text heavy. This becomes a barrier to accessing the information in the book.

Personally, I...more
Molly
Barnard's book highlights six major plagues that altered the course of human history and helped to shape the world as we know it. This would be an interesting counterpoint for students studying world history in the standard textbooks. For instance, this book discusses the Spanish Influenza outbreak that occurred right at the close of the First World War. Students could discuss the role that this outbreak, military advantages and political diplomacy all played in shaping the eventual armistice. T...more
Sandy
I think this book is meant for children; however, I found it a very interesting read and informative on how 4 plagues impacted history. Perhaps that is my reading level? The author did a good job in explaining how the 4 plagues developed. I admit, I was not familiar with the Spanish Flu prior to reading this book.
Talyn
I love this book. Absolutely love it. The oil paintings depicting sickness whether it be the Black Plague in the 1400s, or the 'romantic' potrayel of Tuberculosis as 'love sickness' or the surgical-mask-wearing-kissing-couple during the Spanish Flu of 1918.

It was in my middle school's library, but I found no problem at all with reading it. I was probably 11 at the time, and though sometimes the wall of text bored me (the part on the disease that decimated Napolean's forces during whatever war bo...more
Ticklish Owl
This book covers six devastating diseases in human history; bubonic plague, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and influenza. The science in the book is fairly basic, you won't need any prior knowledge of microbiology or cell biology.

Each brief chapter discusses a pathogen; its history, epidemiological significance, political effects, and treatments. There are a micrographs accompanying each chapter, as well as illustrations, and a world map depicting the spread of the disease over t...more
Melissa Mcavoy
Outbreak is a fascinating account of the history of 8 plagues and the dramatic effect these plagues have had on history. The Black Death undermined feudal Europe, Yellow Fever contributed to the end of slavery, Cholera cleaned up cities and allowed there growth.
The downside of a book that covers this much history and creates this many connections among events is it can not possibly include everything of interest or be even-handed. Footnotes would have been highly useful.(There is a list of sour...more
Debbie
I am not a history buff in the least, at least not the way it was taught in my high school. However, I absolutely loved this book! I am not squeamish about illnesses at all (at least reading about them), so the few paragraphs each "chapter" about the illnesses' symptoms and progressions did not bother me.

However, the way that the epidemics affected the economies, politics, and medical standards at the time were interesting. I had no idea that yellow fever had anything to do with slavery, that TB...more
Nic
Very short, to-the-point, interesting. Explains the impact that six major disease epidemics - of smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, influenza, bubonic plague, and tuberculosis - had on the world in terms of everything from politics to war to religion. It's very brief - just a couple of pages, illustrated with paintings, pictures of microbes, and maps of the epidemics, on each disease, but contains a lot that I didn't know before (especially about yellow fever). And, surprisingly for the subject ma...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This was an outstanding book about 6 diseases that changed history: the Black Death, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and influenza. Some of the ways that these pandemics changed history had never occurred to me. I learned a lot from this book! The author is right up to date on the latest treatments and obviously did a LOT of research. I'm not sure what age group this is targeted for, but I think middle to high schoolers would find it useful for reports. In fact, I'd even recommend...more
Kelly
This book is not an easy read. I plan to use it with my middle school students as an offering within our Disease and Epidemic unit. I think there are several excellent take off points for discussion. My favorite is the author's statement that the very same people who used disease to show God wanted the New World settled by sending smallpox to kill the natives also argued that slaves were meant to be enslaved as evidenced by their immunity to yellow fever.
Tricia
How plagues changed history sounds fascinating. This book, is not. The plagues that are featured are given oversimplified reasons for their affect on history. The author shows a contempt for religion, and America. I found the bias made it harder for me to accept what the author states as true or correct, and by the end I was only interested in finishing the book.
Rachel Craig
I put this on hold at the library, not realizing this is was a children's non fiction book. Ah, well, my Intro to Library Science professor said "If you want to get basic information on a topic, start with a children's nonfiction book." So I gave this book a shot. The pictures are great in this book, and there is a lot of text covering 6 different plagues occuring in the last thousand years. If is rather informative, but I'm not sure which kid would be interested in this. Despite its short lengt...more
Jessica
A wonderfully fascinating, if too short, look at several of the major plagues that shaped the world we live in. From the Black Death that created a middle class from the ashes of the old feudal order to how Europeans conquered the New World, only with the aid of their valuable "ally" Smallpox to the Spanish Flu that influenced the peace at the end of World War I, thereby setting the stage for World War II. Any of those morons who don't vaccinate their kids, should be forced to read this book and...more
Kristin
I do my best to actually finish all the books that I start, but I couldn't do it with this one. I was definitely not the target audience for it, all of the information was very very simplified. I made it halfway through the chapter on TB and couldn't keep going.
I like science books written for laypeople, but I like the ones that have references so you can check and see that the author did their research. I don't feel like that happened here. Things were generalized massively and there were stat...more
Carol
Jul 02, 2013 Carol added it
Interesting account of the impact of epidemics on human history. It's amazing what a difference they have made. It's also a cautionary tale. The author's bias is for immunizations. I would expand the warning to public health in general - if we want to save lives, we need to avoid known risk factors, including unclean drinking water, mosquitoes, multiple sex partners (and especially gay sex), etc. as we seek to understand more completely how diseases breed and spread. Even as in history many peop...more
Matthew Griffiths
An enjoyable albeit brief discussion of the tremendous yet often neglected story of the ways in which a variety of diseases have impacted on human history. Split by each disease, the book recounts the impact each has had in the context in which it emerged. I found particularly interesting the section of Spanish influenza, both for the discussion about the nature of the flu virus and also for the speculation about the impact that flu had on Wilson's ability to make Versailles a fairer treaty.

Mu...more
Laura
This book covers how six major pandemics changed the evolution of the world.

A dumbed down version of Armies of Pestilence. I suppose I am not being fair, but since Armies of Pestilence read more like a dissertation, this seemed more like a high school textbook in comparison. The author also used cute little sound bite subchapters....which seriously annoyed me.

However, I did learn things. And it was fast and easy to read. Kind of like McDonalds is to eat. You might not feel great after consumin...more
Joe
Is this a kids' book? Don't be fooled by its size and cover - Outbreak is a great read for young scientists and older science buffs alike! This mini-volume of pop-science introduces microbes and the effects that they can have on humans, and chronicles the social and scientific effects of several plagues - including the Black Death, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and influenza - throughout history, and explanations of how citizens and scientists still struggle with diseases today....more
Karen
I apparently should have been an epidemiologist or a virologist as I found this to be an interesting book. It's an easy read with short chapters that can be read together or individually. Basically, the book discusses how diseases like The Black Death, Yellow Fever, TB, Smallpox, and some others were caused by society and then how they changed society. TB played a major role in creating the public health system whose structure we still see today. The Spanish Flu played a major role in changing t...more
Ann Goddard
Aug 16, 2014 Ann Goddard marked it as to-read
I read this before, way too quickly, and want to savor it.
Judi Burgess
Fast and interesting read.
A_Cathy
This book looks at how microbes shaped civilization. It looks at epidemics and how they can reshuffle power, serve the greater good, or solidify the status of the ruling class (pg. 3), also how the Black Death smashed feudal Europe. This book looks at different types of Plagues and how they effected the path of history for good or bad (48 pages). The book is wordy, but does have pictures to help invision the information. There is a glossary for the rich text. I would say this book is geared for...more
Audrey
Don't discount this just because it's a picture book. I found it a good introduction to the world of diseases, and it made connections that I would not otherwise have thought of. Some of the assertions that it makes may stretch the facts a bit too far. However, I have yet to read a popular nonfiction book that didn't stretch things here and there, so I don't consider it a major flaw. It's well worth the read if you are interested in the subject, but don't have time to read an entire grown-up boo...more
Erica
Beautiful paintings, text needs work. Book chronicles plagues such as the Black Death, small pox, influenza and yellow fever, among others, and describes their influence on historical events and outcomes. Word choice more appropriate for high school students. Author takes liberties with opinions. Although sources are listed in the back, they are not imbedded within the text, which I believe is a misjudgment given the facts presented in the book.
Patricia
This book is full of fascinating, if somewhat gruesome, facts about plagues. My strong sixth-grade readers devour the book, especially while researching the plague and preparing a play on the Black Death of the Middle Ages.

It is hard for the struggling to read because of the amount of text on the page, but they can read the pictures and as much of the rest as they are able in order to get information and be "in the know" with the other kids.
Erika
This quick read gave a general overview of the impact of various plagues on history and society. I was hoping for something more in-depth, but it's not bad for what it is.

It seems to be written for a younger audience, and contains a glossary in the back.

The author is clearly a proponent of universal healthcare and sanitation as a means of plague reduction, and I'm in agreement. I'm sure there are other considerations as well.
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