Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002 (first published 2000). ISBN-10: 0689848919  ISBN-13: 978-0689848919.  272 p.

Plot Summary
Mattie Cook lives above her family's coffee shop with her mother and grandfather. During the summer of 1793, yellow fever breaks out in Philadelphia. Instead of spending her days avoiding chores, thinking of her friend Nathaniel Benson, and planning ways to make the coffee shop the best in Philadelphia, Mattie must learn how to survive in a city where disease is everywhere.

Critical Evaluation
School Library Journal's starred review of Fever 1793 declares that "readers will be drawn in by the characters and will emerge with a sharp and graphic picture of another world." Indeed, the story of Mattie's survival and maturation during one of the worst epidemics in American history is fascinating. Anderson succeeds in tying realistic descriptions of life in Colonial time with an interesting, well-written story. This book was selected as a Best Book for Young Adults by the ALA.

Reader’s Annotation
Mattie Cook lives above her mother's coffee house and dreams of her adult future. But when a yellow fever epidemic sweeps through Philadelphia, Mattie must grow up quickly as those close to her are affected. 

Author Information
Laurie Halse Anderson came up with the idea for Fever 1793 after she read an article in her local newspaper commemorating the Philadelphia epidemic 200 years ago. Anderson also wrote the novel Speak, which was a highly acclaimed finalist for the National Book Award and a Printz Honor book. Laurie lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters. She can be found online at her website,

Anderson has said, "Fever 1793 for me started in a newspaper article that was written in 1993. Get it? Two hundred years, right? The Philadelphia Inquirer because I was living outside Philly. A museum exhibit had been put together that examined this epidemic that nearly wiped out the city when the city was the capital of the United States. And I'm a big history geek. And I had never heard about this epidemic. So I was reading the article and I was struck, (a) by that fact, that it was a little known, really important thing in American history. And it was disgusting. Yellow Fever's not a nice disease. It's very gory and you'd puke up blood and it was like people dying all over in the streets. And I realized that between the disgusting factor and the history thing, I had the perfect book for children."

Historical fiction

Curriculum Ties
History: Post-Revolutionary America; epidemics

Booktalking Ideas
-Maddie's crush on Nathaniel--how crushes are much the same today
-The description of Maddie's sickness striking her.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 7-12.

Challenge Issues

I chose this book because it is a common entry on lists of good historical fiction for young adults. Historical fiction seems to have fallen out of vogue for teens, so I wanted something written recently and this was a good pick.


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