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Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  677 ratings  ·  120 reviews
“An engrossing introduction for young adult readers to the chillingly topical subject of man vs. microbe.” —The Wall Street Journal
Did the Black Death destroy medieval Europe? 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
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
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Hannah Greendale
Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History offers a brief examination of six pathogens (bubonic plague, smallpox, tuberculosis, cholera, yellow fever, and influenza) and explores how the widespread death associated with each pathogen altered the course of history.

What's fascinating about this book isn't just the history of land changing hands or ruling classes failing because of widespread disease, it's the way religion, sexism, and racism played a devastating hand in prolonging the prevalence of t
Montzalee Wittmann
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Picked this up from the library
Love the cover
Short book
Brief description of several diseases
Nana B C1
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Outbreak by Bryn Barnard is a great book for all people who love reading nonfiction or informational books. Outbreak is ironically about Outbreaks; what caused them, how people treated them, and how they affected the world. I thought this was a good book to read because we ourselves are living and have been living in the outbreak of COVID-19. While reading, I managed to make many different connections from how the other outbreaks affected the people at that time and how we are affected now. If y ...more
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
Kevin Zhao
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History by Bryan Barnard is an interesting and informational book full of facts and intriguing stories, yet it was a quick, concise, and fun read. Bryan Barnard manages to convince the reader that plagues, while seemingly awful and inhumane, surprisingly may have good effects.
One new detail I learned about European history is that they have done plague massacres to the Jews. This changed my perspective. Originally, I was only aware of the WWII Jewish Holocaust. Bu
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have not read a lot of Non-Fiction books, so I expected this one to be boring and too factual. Instead, Outbreak!, a book about different plagues that affected human history, was very interesting and good to read.

Ironically, I am reading this book while the coronavirus is spreading. Unlike normal non-fiction books, Outbreak was funny and interesting. With a blend of facts and personal opinions, the author details 6 different plagues in human history.

I like how the author puts in a lot of subti
Dec 29, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Jan 22, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Sci-Fi & Scary
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Review Excerpt: Outbreak is, primarily, for ‘tweens. Its a little too mature for anyone under the age of 11, even though its marketed as being suitable for ages 8-12. Its also a little too simplistic for a lot of people outside the age range to enjoy. Outbreak doesn’t set out to be a full-scale immersion into microbiology. Its meant to be an introduction. It gives the reader a basic, easy to understand rundown of the major plagues, as well as some key discoveries in combating microbes, and the o ...more
Jul 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Kelly Kriner
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. ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
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.
Michelle Lee
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a really great read about how plagues and illnesses have effected humanity over the the centuries. The illustrations are also very nice and make what could be a very depressing book a little lighter. I'm not sure what ages this book is for, I found it in the children's section of my library, but some of the topics and words seem like they would be better suited for middle or high school students while the format caters more to elementary students. ...more
Rakshitkumar Mahale
My Rating: 3.9 / 5

This book focuses on how 6 of the epidemics caused most mayhem throughout our history:

-> bubonic plague
-> smallpox
-> yellow fever
-> cholera
-> tuberculosis
-> influenza.

The book also mention how these microbes were used as a weapon to win wars, and how it helped to end slavery !!! It's true that appearance doesn't show how powerful your enemy is. Pathogens and mosquitoes has proved it.

An amazing read.
Ironically the format of this book threw me off when it first arrived. I ordered it for potential use with a class on Sickness and Health, and it looked like a children's book. It's not, and in fact the writing is probably a bit too sophisticated for my class which is primarily composed of non-native English speakers. I found it nonetheless very interesting and liked the way the link was made between infectious diseases and progress, or lack thereof. ...more
Melissa Mcavoy
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Loveliest Evaris
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
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
I read a lot of books on the history of disease and medicine. I find the way we've discovered how to overcome disease to be absolutely fascinating. So a lot of the details on the specific plagues talked about in here, like cholera and yellow fever, were familiar to me. But this book, instead of looking closely at the diseases themselves, looks at how those outbreaks affected history. How did the Spanish flu outbreak in WWI lead directly to World War II? Did yellow fever really lead to the end of ...more
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Ann Goddard
Aug 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this before, way too quickly, and want to savor it.

Went through the Kindle edition, and as I recall the hardcopy had some interesting illustrations that are missing here. It covers a number of plagues throughout history in Western Civilization, but doesn't get far below the surface. A quick read and general coverage for the person who hasn't heard of a lot of these illnesses (such as schoolchildren), but dissatisfying in terms of depth of treatment of epidemiology, biology, or virus reser
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
Rachel Craig
Dec 19, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 26, 2012 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
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.

Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Bryn Barnard is an American illustrator and author.

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