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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

In March 1907, the lives of three remarkable people collided at a New York City brownstone where Mary Mallon worked as a cook. They were brought together by typhoid fever, a dreaded scourge that killed tens of thousands of Americans each year. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary is the first middle-grade trade book that tells the true story of the woman who unwittingly spread deadly bacteria, the epidemiologist who discovered her trail of infection, and the health department that decided her fate. This gripping story follows this tragic disease as it shatters lives from the early twentieth century to today. It will keep readers on the edges of the seats wondering what happened to Mary and the innocent typhoid victims. With glossary, timeline, list of well-known typhoid sufferers and victims, further resource section, author’s note, and source notes.…

Fatal Fever

by Gail Jarrow

Overall Book Review:

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary is a fantastic non-fiction read for middle graders. Author Gail Jarrow plainly explains the horrible prevalence of typhoid and other infectious diseases in twentieth century America and lists the diseases’ signs and symptoms. Jarrow includes common medical beliefs, hygiene practices of the time, and key figures who led the fight to improve public health. The book is well-written and all the subject matter is informative and entertaining. Several viewpoints about the infamous ‘Typhoid Mary’ are represented in a clear and concise manner. A glossary and timeline are also included. 

For a book about infectious disease, Fatal Fever is eye-catching with bold colors and an inviting layout. Archival pictures dot almost every page and a section of ‘famous typhoid victims’ provides fascinating information. Fatal Fever is a great comprehensive read for anyone wanting to know more about America’s battle against typhoid.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Calkins Creek

Content Analysis:


Violence/Gore:  Secondhand report of suicide; a drunken man chases a doctor and the doctor punches him in the face; attempted stabbing with a fork; a character resists arrest by kicking and hitting. 

*Note to readers: Typhoid is a disease that often resulted in graphic symptoms and painful death. Feces, blood and other bodily functions are discussed within this book. 

Sex/Nudity:  None

Mature Subject Matter:

Death of family members and friends, infectious disease, suicide, patient rights.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

The book covers antibiotics and other prescription medication used to combat typhoid. 

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My mother was the one who sparked my love of books. Long before school instruction, she sat me down and taught me to read. My childhood was filled with trips to the library and bookmobile to find great books. My first loves were The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lingren. Now as a mom and speech pathologist, I am constantly looking for good, clean books to use at home and in therapy. I enjoy reading many different genres, but my favorites are usually historical fiction. I married my best friend, the “boy next door”, and we have a beautiful little girl who we often find sprawled out on the floor, flipping through picture books. Together our family likes to swim, run and play tennis. Besides reading, I also love to bake, garden and travel.