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In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, learns about perseverance and self-reliance when she is forced to cope with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic.
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In the summer of 1793, a yellow fever epidemic sweeps through Philadelphia. Mattie's mother falls ill, and sends Mattie and her grandfather to the country, but they never make it to their destination; Grandfather falls ill as well (not with yellow fever) and they return to the city - only to find Mother gone. Mattie and Grandfather live in their coffee house, until intruders break in and kill Grandfather, leaving Mattie alone, until she finds the African-American cook, Eliza. Together, the two of them and Eliza's family care for each other and the rest of the fevered, until the first frost kills off the mosquitoes and the city revives.

Mattie teeters on the verge between childhood and adulthood. Before the epidemic, her dream was to expand the family's coffee house, adding a dry goods store; but as she suffers and recovers from the fever, and sees many fall dead around her, she focuses on getting through the present.

See also: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Quotes

"I don't believe it," said Grandfather finally. "People exaggerate." (confronted with the idea that a thousand people might die; Philadelphia's population at the time was 40,000) (p. 60)

"You can't solve tomorrow's problems today." (Nurse Bridget Flagg to Mattie, 107)

"These are trying times. They seem to bring out the best and worst in the people around us." (Mrs. Bowles to Mattie, 114)

"We're supposed to go back to the way we lived before, but everything has changed." (Mattie to Nathaniel, 218)

I wanted to tell [the returnees] to hush. It felt like they were dancing on a grave with no thought to the suffering they had escaped. (219) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 30, 2021 |
While this book was published in 2000, it is eerily similar to many situations young people found themselves grappling with in 2020-2021 with COVID-19. The main character is a 14 year old girl named Mattie Cook, and she is vibrant, happy, and ambitious. However, when the yellow fever strikes her community in Philadelphia, many of her plans must adapt and change in order to stay alive. The story is based on true events. The novel could be a model for a student who wants to tell their COVID-19 story. The trials and tribulations of life disrupted. The novel is very well written, and tackles adult challenges of life through the lens of a teenager living in Colonial times.

Sample Lesson Plan for Compare and Contrast of Yellow Fever and COVID-19
https://healthynewsworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/yellow_fever_1793_lesson... ( )
  KylerJones | Apr 25, 2021 |
BBYA Top 10 2000. RGG: Post-Revolutionary War; Excellent historic fiction; quality of prose definitely young adult.
  rgruberexcel | Apr 19, 2021 |
BBYA Top 10 2000. RGG: Post-Revolutionary War; Excellent historic fiction; quality of prose definitely young adult.
  rgruberexcel | Apr 19, 2021 |
Listened to audiobook w/ my 14 year old daughter - it was great in that context. Highly engaging, a bit scary, and great historical fiction. All good. ( )
  bederson | Dec 17, 2020 |
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The City of Philadelphia is perhaps one of the wonders of the world. —Lord Adam Gordon, 1795
Oh then the hands of the pitiful Mother prepared her Child's body for the grave... —Letter of Margaret Morris, 1793
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This book is for my father, Reverend Frank A. Halse Jr, the finest man I know.
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I woke to the sound of a mosquito whining in my left ear and my mother screeching in the right.
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A hot wind blew trash and dirt through the abandoned stalls. It looked like an enormous broom had swept away all the people.
"A field plowed by the devil," I murmured. "They're not even using coffins."
Though we were all healed of the fever, some wounds were inside the heart and would mend slowly.
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In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, learns about perseverance and self-reliance when she is forced to cope with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic.

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