cover image The Deadliest Diseases Then and Now (The Deadliest #1)

The Deadliest Diseases Then and Now (The Deadliest #1)

Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic Focus, $7.99 paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-338-36022-6

Hopkinson (We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport) instructs the reader to imagine a deadly disease racing through their city: the streets are deserted, and one’s mother refuses to let one leave the house. It may bear contemporary parallels, but Hopkinson is describing the bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe, Asia, and Africa in 1347. Known as the “Great Mortality,” it’s estimated to have killed nearly half the population of Europe. Endorsing primary sources, the narrative shares written testimony about sailors’ stopovers emulating the loosing of “evil spirits”: “Every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly.” Quoting medical historians and epidemiologists, Hopkinson shows that plague was spread by Mongol sieges through the Black Sea region and beyond. Where raiders went, so did rats, whose fleas spread disease, which incited mob violence and political instability. The second half of the book covers other lethal outbreaks, including influenza, cholera, and Covid-19. Augmented by A.L. Tarter’s striking 1940s pen-and-ink illustrations, this series starter offers skilled narration and concise explanations of complex scientific terms and ideas. A timely take on historical pandemics. Back matter includes a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, knowledge-testing games, and instructions to create your own plague chronicle. Ages 7–10. (Oct.)