cover image Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918

Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918

Don Brown. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-544-83740-9

In 1918, a devastating influenza epidemic swept across the globe, infecting one-third of the world’s population and killing an estimated 50 million people. Organized as “a three-act tragedy,” this slim graphic novel describes the spread of the 1918 Spanish flu with an unemotional narrative voice supplemented by direct quotes from historical accounts. Act I provides historical context and documents the first tremors of the outbreak in the U.S. and its spread to Europe. Act II, the bulk of the book, chronicles the worst of the pandemic, spotlighting the valiant efforts of medical professionals as well as various attempts at cures, from home remedies to the work of dedicated scientists. Act III covers the culmination of the disease and the later discovery of the virus responsible. Though the majority of deaths took place outside of the U.S. and Europe, the book rarely looks beyond these locations. Brown (Drowned City) matches his economical text with art that skillfully depicts the steadily growing horror. Grim figures, often with indistinguishably miserable faces, appear against empty cities and overflowing hospitals or in anonymous crowds of the infected, all painted in a muted, muddy palette that is stark and effective. A succinct epilogue summarizes this already concise introduction to the epidemic and its devastating impact. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)