A useful, engaging introduction to the history of pandemics.

THE DEADLIEST DISEASES THEN AND NOW

From the Deadliest series , Vol. 1

A dive into pandemics past and present published while Covid-19 continues to rage.

In the first entry in a nonfiction series focused on deadly events, Hopkinson pays particular attention to the Great Mortality, as the second exceptionally deadly assault of bubonic plague was contemporaneously known in Europe (the first began in sixth-century Constantinople). The high-interest narrative explains the value of primary sources and then makes use of them to describe the impact of this wave of the plague as it killed up to 60% of the European population beginning in 1347. Hopkinson notes that scholarship is still emerging on the plague’s impact in Asia and Africa at this time, hence the focus on Europe. Following chapters touch upon later plague outbreaks, the influenza pandemic of 1918, Covid-19, and, briefly, cholera, smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, and HIV. MERS and SARS are named in passing; the devastation of Indigenous people in the Americas does not come up. Text boxes provide additional information on vaccines, the binomial system for naming living things, and related topics. The book describes prejudice as people scapegoat certain groups during disease outbreaks, such as with medieval pogroms, but the rise in anti–Asian American violence during Covid-19 is not discussed. Although simple and reassuring enough for elementary readers, this effort never shirks grim details or skips over important information.

A useful, engaging introduction to the history of pandemics. (glossary, activities, journaling advice, further reading, source notes, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-36022-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Not your typical kid-with-cancer book.

WINK

A rare form of cancer takes its toll in this novel based on the author’s experience.

Seventh grader Ross Maloy wants nothing more than to be an average middle schooler, hanging out with his best friends, Abby and Isaac, avoiding the school bully, and crushing on the popular girl. There’s just one thing keeping Ross from being completely ordinary: the rare form of eye cancer that’s reduced him to the kid with cancer at school. Ross’ eye is closed in a permanent wink, and he constantly wears a cowboy hat to protect his eyes. The doctors are hopeful that Ross will be cancer free after treatment, but his vision will be impaired, and the treatments cause him to lose his hair and require the application of a particularly goopy ointment. This isn’t a cancer book built upon a foundation of prayer, hope, and life lessons. The driving force here is Ross’ justifiable anger. Ross is angry at the anonymous kids making hurtful memes about him and at Isaac for abandoning him when he needs a friend most. Ross funnels his feelings into learning how to play guitar, hoping to make a splash at the school’s talent show. The author balances this anger element well against the typical middle-grade tropes. Misunderstood bully? Check. Well-meaning parents? Check. While some of these elements will feel familiar, the novel’s emotional climax remains effectively earned. Characters are paper-white in Harrell’s accompanying cartoons.

Not your typical kid-with-cancer book. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1514-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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