Fever 1793

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Publishers Weekly The opening scene of Anderson's ambitious novel about the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged Philadelphia in the late 18th century shows a hint of the gallows humor and insight of her previous novel, Speak. Sixteen-year-old Matilda "Mattie" Cook awakens in the sweltering summer heat on August 16th, 1793, to her mother's command to rouse and with a mosquito buzzing in her ear. She shoos her cat from her mother's favorite quilt and thinks to herself, "I had just saved her precious quilt from disaster, but would she appreciate it? Of course not." Mattie's wit again shines through several chapters later during a visit to her wealthy neighbors' house, the Ogilvies. Having refused to let their serving girl, Eliza, coif her for the occasion, Mattie regrets it as soon as she lays eyes on the Ogilvie sisters, who wear matching bombazine gowns, curly hair piled high on their heads ("I should have let Eliza curl my hair. Dash it all"). But thereafter, Mattie's character development, as well as those of her grandfather and widowed mother, takes a back seat to the historical details of Philadelphia and environs. Extremely well researched, Anderson's novel paints a vivid picture of the seedy waterfront, the devastation the disease wreaks on a once thriving city, and the bitterness of neighbor toward neighbor as those suspected of infection are physically cast aside. However, these larger scale views take precedence over the kind of intimate scenes that Anderson crafted so masterfully in Speak. Scenes of historical significance, such as George Washington returning to Philadelphia, then the nation's capital, to signify the end of the epidemic are delivered with more impact than scenes of great personal significance to Mattie. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 6-10-The sights, sounds, and smells of Philadelphia when it was still the nation's capital are vividly re-created in this well-told tale of a girl's coming-of-age, hastened by the outbreak of yellow fever. As this novel opens, Matilda Cook, 14, wakes up grudgingly to face another hot August day filled with the chores appropriate to the daughter of a coffeehouse owner. At its close, four months later, she is running the coffeehouse, poised to move forward with her dreams. Ambitious, resentful of the ordinary tedium of her life, and romantically imaginative, Matilda is a believable teenager, so immersed in her own problems that she can describe the freed and widowed slave who works for her family as the "luckiest" person she knows. Ironically, it is Mattie who is lucky in the loyalty of Eliza. The woman finds medical help when Mattie's mother falls ill, takes charge while the girl is sent away to the countryside, and works with the Free African Society. She takes Mattie in after her grandfather dies, and helps her reestablish the coffeehouse. Eliza's story is part of an important chapter in African-American history, but it is just one of many facets of this story of an epidemic. Mattie's friend Nathaniel, apprentice to the painter Master Peale, emerges as a clear partner in her future. There are numerous eyewitness accounts of the devastation by Dr. Benjamin Rush and other prominent Philadelphians of the day. Readers will be drawn in by the characters and will emerge with a sharp and graphic picture of another world.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Yellow fever is sweeping through Philadelphia, and for young Mattie, the epidemic begins with the sudden death of a friend. While Anderson smoothly incorporates extensive research into her story, the plot itself is less involving than the situation. However, most will appreciate this book for its portrayal of a fascinating and terrifying time in American history. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 6-10-Mattie Cook, a spirited 14-year-old girl, lives with her widowed mother who manages a coffee house during the late 1700's in Philadelphia, the nation's capital. During August of 1793, the yellow fever engulfs the city. Mattie must make decisions that affect herself, Eliza, a free black widow and friend, her grandfather, and an orphaned girl, Nell. This coming of age novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (S&S, 2000) gives a full-bodied aroma to life of the markets, docks, printing houses, artists and upper class lifestyles and adds multicultural flavor with monies exchanged such as, pence from Massachusetts, shillings from Virginia, British pounds and French francs. While the book itself is exciting and informative, especially with the closing comments on the Free African Society of 1787, coffee houses of the 1790's, and synopses of yellow fever and "Moving the U.S. Capitol," the narration by actress Emily Bergl does not enrich it. The lack of variation of intensity and tone in the reader's voice makes it difficult to distinguish between narration and dialogue. Despite the range of foreign, ethnic, and varying classes of characters, the voices are not clearly distinguishable, even among the most prevelant ones. The pauses between dialogue and "she said" or "he said" cause a staccato rhythm and make this reading less than first rate.-Tina Hudak, St. Bernard's School, Riverdale, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly PW called this ambitious novel about the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged 18th-century Philadelphia "extremely well researched. However, larger scale views take precedence over the kind of intimate scenes that Anderson crafted so masterfully in Speak." Ages 10-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Gr. 7^-10. Sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, her widowed mother, and her grandfather are eking out a living running a coffeehouse in the middle of bustling Philadelphia when they learn that their servant girl has died of yellow fever. Thus begins Matilda's odyssey of coping and survival as the disease decimates the city, turning the place into a ghost town and Matilda into an orphan. Anderson has carefully researched this historical event and infuses her story with rich details of time and place (each chapter begins with quotes from books or correspondence of the late-eighteenth century), including some perspective on the little-known role African Americans played in caring for fever victims. The dialogue in Fever is not as natural sounding as it was in Anderson's contemporary novel Speak (1999), which was a Printz Honor Book. But readers probably won't be disappointed by Anderson's writing or by her departure from a modern setting. Nor will teachers, who will find this a good supplement to their American History texts. Anderson tells a good story and certainly proves you can learn a lot about history in good fiction. An appended section gives more background. --Frances Bradburn

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

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