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An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
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An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,048 ratings  ·  338 reviews
1793, Philadelphia. The nation's capital and the largest city in North America is devastated by an apparently incurable disease, cause unknown . . .

Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on the city's residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. D...more
Hardcover, 165 pages
Published June 23rd 2003 by Clarion Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
it is inconceivable to me that this is a book intended for children. the beginning part is fine, but the last chapter or so is paralyzingly terrifying. if i had read this as a child, it would have given me night terrors for years and even now i would think of it with chills, as i do with "tailypo". brrr... this book chronicles an outbreak of yellow fever that killed 5000 people. and by chronicling, i mean it goes into details of black-bile-vomiting, and women giving birth to babies where both di...more
Greg
I have to admit that I learned some things from this book. I had no idea that for about 3 months the Federal government got shut down because of yellow fever. Imagine that? For three months nothing happened in the government, no laws were passed, no meetings, nothing and yet the world still went on, and this at a time much more critical than normal, when part of the population wanted another revolution to go along with the French Revolution, and the entire country was only a few years old. So be...more
Andrea
A fascinating review of an event not so long ago that could be repeated in our heavily populated cities and poorly prepared hospitals. An interesting aspect is the courageous role that African Americans played which was largely ignored by history. Also, the aspect of scentists battling an unknown disease with some unfortunate consequences. The man who should be credited with figuring it out watched the mosquito bite him that ended up killing him.
April Helms
A narration of the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793, which claimed the lives of between 4,000 and 5,000 men, women and children. It relates the medical practices of the day, such as blood-letting, the use of mercury and other remedies considered of questionable (at best) value today. It contains pictures and illustrations, including pages from a list compiled of the dead.

This is a very sobering read, especially after Hurricane Katrina. Teens won’t miss parallels between then, with t...more
Melinda
Ok, so I'm on a roll here reading about disease and epidemics! This one sparked my curiosity because in "The Great Influenza", Philadelphia is hit badly by the 1918 influenza epidemic. It looks like in this book Philadelphia was also badly hit in 1793 by the yellow fever epidemic. Gotta read it to find out more!
******

This book is a Newberry Honor book for children. As such it is not difficult reading at all, but still was worthwhile to read.

In the summer of 1793 yellow fever hit Philadelphia and...more
Wendi
Interesting history of Philadelphia at the time. Very readable history. The author made the book interesting while presenting a good historical narrative of the events.
Josiah
"Sometimes...I lose myself in looking back upon the ocean which I have passed, and now and then find myself surprised by a tear in reflecting upon the friends I have lost, and the scenes of distress that I have witnessed, and which I was unable to relieve."

—Dr. Benjamin Rush, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, P. 101

An American Plague has to be one of the finest juvenile non-fiction books to be published in a very long time.

Jim Murphy has...more
NSAndrew Liebergen
Students in grades 7-12 take a tour of the dramatic events that happened in 1793 when the Yellow Fever Epidemic broke out. The book is wonderfully written with historical facts everywhere. Murphy describes the horror of both the people involved in the plague and the disease itself. Murphy also describes the interplay between Philadelphia and neighboring areas, and the conflict between the ordinary person and those who held power/made decisions.
Murphy chronologically follows the beginning of th...more
Casey Strauss
An American Plague, written by Jim Murphy, details the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, which occurred in Philadelphia. The book is written in a easy to follow narrative, with excellent details, its evident that Murphy did his research about this time in history. At the beginning of the book is a map of the city of Philadelphia, which outlines the different streets and locations referenced in the chapters. It all began in August, when there was an alarming amount of flies, insects, and mosquitoes....more
Joy
2004 Newbery Honor Book

This was an excellent nonfiction book about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793. I knew about the plague because I've read Fever 1973 by Laurie Halse Anderson which is a fictionalized account of the event. What I didn't realize in reading the fiction novel was that at the time, Philadelphia was the capital of the United States and George Washington resided there at the time of the plague.

Murphy goes into how the doctors attempted to treat the disease. The or...more
Wallace Johnson
Genre: This title is non-fiction history. I placed it under my Other listings of Junior Books

Summary: Philadelphia, home of President Washington and the nation’s federal government, is dealing with the deaths of thousands due to Yellow Fever in 1793.

(a.) The strength if this titles lies within the author’s ability to gather factual evidence, enlightening today’s readers on this dreadful time in our history and how it affected thousands of people. From newborn children to the elder, nearly every...more
Janna Gifford
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy is a nonfiction book that won the Newbery Honor Award. This book is intended for the intermediate and advanced age level. This book is about an incurable disease that took over the town of Philadelphia in 1793. The book went over on how the first person died on August 3rd to how the Free African Society took time to help take care of the victims of the illness. I rated this book five stars based...more
MissDziura
An American Plague tackles the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 and does include quite a bit of authoritative documentation including excerpts from diaries of those living back during the epidemic and an extensive list of sources considering there are no survivors around today to confirm what really happened. The text attempts to describe how Philadelphia became almost unrecognizable when the yellow fever hit in 1793, using historical stories to paint a grim picture. One of the negative features of...more
Samantha
Jim Murphy's book feels more like historical fiction than a purely informational book. We are introduced to the people and places of Philadelphia as we see the plague beginning to spread. Murphy tells about the different doctors' opinions and the debates that ensued. Many people fled the city leaving a few brave people, doctors, and the dying to figure out the rapidly spreading fever. Later people determine that mosquitoes are carriers. They use DDT excessively to control the problem. The book i...more
Kim
I typically stay away from non-fiction. Perhaps I'm being unfair to the genre, but these sorts of books always end up reminding me of school assignments. Get in, get the info, get out; do not pass go, do not collect $200. And certainly don't enjoy yourself.

So, when I was assigned to read a non-fiction Newbery book in graduate school, I was not amused. And after much moaning and groaning, I flopped on the couch one afternoon to read this. The words "True" and "Terrifying" offered a spark of hope...more
Heather
Murphy has written a fascinating and very well researched account of the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 that took place in Philadelphia. At that time, Philadelphia was the capitol of the fledgling nation of United States. President Washington and his family were one of the first to flee the city when the epidemic began. Murphy recounts the events leading up to the epidemic, from the first few cases to the massive number of deaths. The descriptions of early medical treatments for the yellow fever...more
Dora
This book narrates the life and times of the year 1793 in Phildelphia, during the yellow fever outbreak. It starts from a excruciating summer day, to the culminating deaths and evacuations of the townspeople. Yellow fever quickly takes over the lives, quite literally, of all the medically trained as well as the politicians trying to keep control of the town. Throughout the story, you learn about significant people who contributed to the town's survival or the town's downfall. A very thorough rea...more
Snorkle
I found parts of this book fascinating and other parts a little boring. It was almost hard to believe what people did in the past because they thought it would cure them. It was interesting to see the different angles of this period of history. I especially liked seeing how there were two vastly different approaches to this disease and how it was to be treated. I didn't realize the political complications of this wide-spread fever either. I liked reading this book, but I wouldn't say it was the...more
Michael Duffey
Apr 26, 2014 Michael Duffey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Michael by: 277f29ba@opayq.com
Shelves: 642-shelf
Genre: Informational
Age Range: 5th-9th Grade

Summary: An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 is a powerful, dramatic narrative that chronicles the events that took place in the nations capital (Philadelphia).

Curriculum Connection: After having the students read the books, as a class we would come up with ways on how we could prevent the spread of disease. Taking the top ideas, the students could then be group and research if their assigned idea wou...more
Kathryn Edmunds
1. Genre: Information

2. Intended age range: Grades 4-6

3. Summary: An intriguing account about the Yellow Fever epidemic in 1793 in Philadelphia which highlights events leading up to the epidemic, life during it and how desolate the city of Philadelphia and other areas of the United States were in the terrible disease’s aftermath. Murphy emphasizes the major role that was played by free African Americans during the tragedy as they worked tirelessly as nurses to take care of those infected.

4. Curr...more
Emily
I am not a big non-fiction reader, and I certainly do not enjoy reading about disease and grossness. But this was absolutely fascinating. One of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. I've recommended it many times at the library, once to a teacher of a predominantly African American class, thinking they'd appreciate seeing how the community in Philadelphia really stepped up to help, despite how they were treated.
Ch_wesley Miller
The American Plague is a well- written story about the devastating Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. It started with one person contracting the disease and fnished with an estimated 5,000 Philadephians dead.I learned that free African Americans played a major role in saving the city by working as nurses to take care of the infirmed.This book provides a vivid account of the tragedy that occurred in 1793.
Kira Solberg
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy informs readers about the yellow fever out break in 1793. This book got boring at times because it has no story line but I knew that when I decided to read this book. Other than a few dry parts I really enjoyed this book. I learned all about how Philadelphia faces one of the roughest times in its history.

No one noticed when this Illness when it first started but when more people died every day p...more
Emi
I actually had to read this for school, but it is pretty interesting. I was only supposed to read one chapter but I ended up reading the whole thing!! It is about the Yellow Fever Epidemic striking Philadelphia in 1793, and what it did to the city. The reason it doesn't have more stars was because when I read the part about the symptoms I felt sick... But the book is really interesting!
Judy
As always, Jim Murphy writes a very readable history. He conveys the fear and panic that gripped not just the city of Philadelphia but also the surrounding communities, which refused to admit anyone from Philadelphia until they could be determined to be free of yellow fever. He brings to life the empty streets and closed businesses that resulted from 40% of the population fleeing the city when the plague first hit, and educates the reader on the Constitutional crisis resulting from the clause pr...more
Hilary
4 Stars

In 1793, yellow fever took hold of Philadelphia. Jim Murphy describes the impact that this disease had on the city. This includes social, economical, and political impacts. In that time, Philadelphia was the country’s capital, and the president and his cabinet were all located near or in the city. With the scare of a plague many government officials and people of high economic class fled the city, leaving the poorest to fend for themselves.

This book does a good job of describing the setti...more
Alexandria Godina
A young adult non-fiction book that will actually keep YA's entertained. It was incredibly interesting and disturbing. The book ends with the knowledge there is no cure to yellow fever nor is there a reserve if it was to hit the vaccine couldn't be copied and administered in time, it would first kill 10,000 people :)....ahhhh such a good book...
Michelle
A wonderful nonfiction book about a difficult time during America's formative years. It is well-written and engaging. The last chapter about the testing done to find out the cause of the plague was fascinating. This will help everyone appreciate modern sanitation and health care!
Amanda
An American Plague is a well-written and eye-opening detailed account of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in the autumn of 1793. Murphy can certainly turn a phrase; case in point: "Water cascaded off roofs, splashed loudly onto the sidewalks, and ran in burbling rivers through the streets. The howling wind and pounding rain made a frightful noise, and yet through it all a single, chilling sound could still be heard--the awful tolling of the church bells." Since Murphy's language is soph...more
Kayla Spohr
This was a pretty big read and probably not for young children but maybe starting in fifth grade up into middle school would be a good age. It explains the outbreak of Yellow Fever and allows us to see how far medicine has come for us. It is believed that this outbreak came from mosquitos from somewhere such as Haiti. Because of the seriousness of this book, I do not think I would present it to a grade lower than fifth just because it is a bit of a big read and it talks about this scary disease...more
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an American author of more than 35 nonfiction and fiction books for children, young adults, and general audiences, including more than 30 about American history. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2010 for his contribution in writing for teens. Jim lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, in a hundred-year-old house with his wife Alison Blank, a children’s TV produce...more
More about Jim Murphy...
West to a Land of Plenty: The Diary of Teresa Angelino Viscardi The Great Fire My Face to the Wind: The Diary of Sarah Jane Price, a Prairie Teacher (Dear America) Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America

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“Sometimes...I lose myself in looking back upon the ocean which I have passed, and now and then find myself surprised by a tear in reflecting upon the friends I have lost, and the scenes of distress that I have witnessed, and which I was unable to relieve.

—Dr. Benjamin Rush”
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