The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

ISBN: 0395776082
Clarion Books/ Houghton Mifflin
Ages: 10 & up


  • 2004 ALA. Newbery Honor Book Award
  • 2004 ALA. Robert F. Sibert Informational
    Book Award
  • National Book Award Finalist Medal
  • NCTE Orbis Pictus Award
  • An ALA Notable Childrenís Book
  • A YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
  • A SLJ Best Book of the Year
  • Blue Ribbon, Bulletin of the Center for
    Childrenís Books
  • An Editorís Choice, Kirkus Reviews

The summer of 1793 was so hot and humid that the swamps around Philadelphia turned to muddy puddles and swarms of mosquitoes filled the air. As the church bells tolled, it was becoming clear -- the city was being ravaged by an unknown killer.

Long before SARS and West Nile virus, Yellow Fever was a medical mystery that forced thousands in the nationís temporary capital to flee and brought the workings of the federal government to a virtual halt. This is a riveting account of this countryís first large-scale medical epidemic.

This is the story of how half the cityís residents fled and half of those who remained died; neighboring towns, cities and states barricaded themselves; Washington himself fled, setting off a constitutional crisis; and bloodletting caused blood to run through the streets. It is also the story of a little known chapter in Black History in which free blacks nursed the sick only to be later condemned for their heroic efforts.

Meticulously researched, first-hand accounts, newspaper clippings, death lists, and period engravings recreate the fear and panic while exploring the political, social, cultural, medical and scientific history of the times. A final chapter explores the causes of the epidemic and provides a wake-up call about the potential for epidemics today.

The Washington Post: "Nobody does juvenile nonfiction better than Murphy."

Kirkus Reviews (starred): "A mesmerizing, macabre account that will make readers happy they live in the 21st century. Powerful, evocative prose carries the compelling subject matter. Stellar."

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA): "Superbly written...extremely accessible and readable. Represents nonfiction at its best."

School Library Journal (starred): "Murphy chronicles this frightening time with solid research and a flair for weaving facts into fascinating stories."