Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

School Library Journal Gr 5 Up-This well-researched biography of Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, begins in 1906, when Mallon was hired as a cook for a wealthy family vacationing in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The outbreak of typhoid that swept through the household a few weeks later turned out to be a pivotal event that forever changed her life. George Soper, a sanitation engineer and typhoid expert, was hired to discover the source of the disease. He eventually determined that Mallon was what was known as a healthy carrier: although she experienced no symptoms of typhoid, her body continued to produce the bacteria, which she inadvertently shed. Soper took his discovery to the New York City Board of Health, and soon thereafter, Mallon was arrested and quarantined against her will on North Brother Island. Mallon has often been described as ignorant and a menace to society due to her refusal to stop working as a cook when she was later briefly released from quarantine, but Bartoletti tells the woman's story with empathy and understanding. The author also explores the myriad violations of Mallon's civil rights and her unusually harsh treatment in comparison to other healthy typhoid carriers (nationwide 50 carriers were identified at the time, but only Mary was quarantined). Energetic, even charming prose (chapter headings include "In Which Mrs. Warren Has a Servant Problem") will easily engage readers. Pair this work with Gail Jarrow's Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary (Boyds Mills, 2015). VERDICT Middle grade biography lovers will gravitate toward this compelling title.-Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly In this thoroughly researched biography, Bartoletti (They Called Themselves the KKK) seeks to illuminate the backstory of "Typhoid Mary," who allegedly infected nearly 50 individuals with the disease. Mary Mallon cooked for wealthy families in turn-of-the-20th-century New York City until she became the first documented "healthy carrier" of typhoid in the U.S. and was imprisoned in hospitals for most of her remaining life. Little is known about Mallon outside of one six-page letter she wrote, official documents, newspaper reports, journal articles, and other firsthand accounts of her. Though Bartoletti forms an objective portrait of Mallon's case, she often has to rely on conjecture ("Mary probably didn't understand that she could be a healthy carrier"), filling in gaps using deductive reasoning based on facts from that era. In the end, this study of Mallon's ill-fated life is as much an examination of the period in which she lived, including the public's ignorance about the spread and treatment of disease, the extreme measures health officials took to advance science, and how yellow journalism's sensationalized stories could ruin someone's reputation. Ages 10-up. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Aug.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Book list *Starred Review* Little is known about Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary, apart from what can be garnered from case studies and wildly sensational newspaper articles, but Bartoletti impressively fills in the gaps with illuminating historical context and lively descriptions of events. At the turn of the twentieth century, typhoid could swiftly kill thousands, and the public health department would go to great lengths to stave off an epidemic. Once investigators identified Mallon as an unwitting spreader of the disease, she was quarantined and tested against her will, but her imprisonment raised questions. Can the health department go too far when protecting the public? Why was Mallon locked up but not scores of other healthy carriers who infected far more people? While addressing these questions, Bartoletti also explains the prejudice that led Mallon a single, lower-class, immigrant woman to be treated differently, the extent to which yellow journalism had a hand in Mallon's infamy, and the generalized suspicion of science and medicine (which is still alive and kicking today) that contributed to her demonization. Expertly weaving together both historical background and contemporary knowledge about disease and public health, Bartoletti enlivens Mallon's story with engrossing anecdotes and provocative critical inquiry while debunking misconceptions. Extensive back matter and illustrations round out this completely captivating volume.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2015 Booklist

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

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