Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793” as Want to Read:
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,478 ratings  ·  381 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
Hardcover, 165 pages
Published June 23rd 2003 by Clarion Books
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about An American Plague, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Charlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteElla Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineBecause of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamilloHatchet by Gary PaulsenPrincess Academy by Shannon Hale
Newbery Medal Honor Books
62nd out of 311 books — 305 voters
Stiff by Mary RoachThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver SacksOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseyThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Medicine and Literature
183rd out of 1,074 books — 1,365 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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.
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.
"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
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
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
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
Amy Maclaren
Jim Murphy has woven a list of facts into a story worth telling and more importantly, worth reading. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 is the tragic story of the yellow fever epidemic and how it affected thousands upon thousands of lives, and in turn, the nation. Murphy’s sentence structures and his complex wording may frighten off potential readers, however, this made me want to read it and challenge myself a little bit more, and I’m a more e ...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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Monica Fastenau
Read more on my blog:

This Newbery book was fantastic! I loved it way more than I ever enjoy nonfiction books. I kept reading sentences and factoids aloud to my husband, and I devoured it in two hours.

The book talks about the yellow fever plague that swept through Philadelphia in 1793, killing thousands in a matter of weeks. It is compulsively readable and full of interesting facts about treatments, politics, racial issues, and disease control at the time.
Jim Murphy does an excellent job of telling the horrifying historical story from a variety of perspectives in his book, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. It is obvious from the primary sources he includes in each chapter and the organized lists of resources in the back of the book that he did his homework when researching and writing this book. It was particularly interesting to hear the stories of the women, minorities, and citizens from low ...more
Taryn Vogel
Personal Reaction: I thought this book was a great representation of an epidemic in history. The book was a little long, so it would be better for older students who could comprehend all of the information. All of the different maps and newspaper articles in the book really contribute to the content, and make the book seem more like an interesting story. The book jacket uses the phrase "a silent killer". Phrases like that draw the students in and make them want to know more about this so called ...more
Dee Davis
This was an educational book that delved into the epidemic that caused the loss of many American lives in 1793. Many Physicians and Political Leaders desperately flooded the city to find a cure, or a way to combat the "yellow fever". Murphy tells accounts of many individuals that experienced the diseased first hand by either, sights witnessed when helping, loss of loved ones, or succumbing to the disease itself. The books tells about the despair and failure of our nation's first President, Georg ...more
Michael Duffey
Apr 26, 2014 Michael Duffey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Michael by:
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
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
Adrianna Wesley
Genre: Historical Children's book/Beginning Reader
Age: 8+ years old
An American Plague: The True Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy is a story of great devastation throughout the late 1700s. The book begins with the first man who got this disease, Yellow Fever, and his death only a few days later. Many people did not pay much attention to his death, but once there was an increase in the amount of people who were showing the same symptoms; aching muscles, f
Kristi Scramlin
The year is 1793 in Philadelphia where a virus is rapidly spreading that is now known as Yellow Fever. Many were becoming severely ill with fevers, weakness, and vomiting and very few doctors knew how to treat all the patients because they couldn’t figure out what was causing this epidemic, so they started to blame environmental circumstances such as the animals that have been found around town and the coffee products being distributed in the harbor. Philadelphia happened to be George Washington ...more
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.
Had to read this in school for was an interesting read.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
ED273: An American Plague 2 2 Nov 22, 2014 07:24PM  
  • The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights
  • Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon
  • Carver: A Life in Poems
  • Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow
  • Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens
  • Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
  • Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley
  • Sugaring Time
  • When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories
  • Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
  • Like Jake and Me
  • The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
  • Show Way
  • Journey Outside
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
  • The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural
  • Whittington
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...

Share This Book

“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”
More quotes…