Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
c2000 Fiction; Grades 6+; 251 p. 580L 2001 ALA Best Books for Young Adults School Library Journal: 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.