A year or two ago, I read The Ghost Map which was a fascinating look into the cholera epidemic in London, 1800s. It was surprising to discover that I did enjoy a bit of a scientific read now and then. Or perhaps it was the glimpses of people and how they responded to outbreaks such as this; the thinking, knowledge, and reasoning to discover the problem and the means to put an end to an epidemic, that truly captures my interest.
After learning much about cholera, what could possible be next? Typhoid, of course. Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America () is a children’s biography of Mary Mallon. Mary Mallon, while never ill from typhoid, was unknowingly a carrier of the disease. The issue of her being a carrier becomes life changing when a family she cooks for becomes ill and death occurs.
Bartoletti does an excellent job at presenting Mary’s plight when health officials seek to make a case example of her. Other carriers of typhoid were identified at this time but none were treated as Mary. Why did Mary receive such harsh treatment? The ground work is laid in this book for some fabulous discussions on vaccinations, the role and purpose of health officials, personal responsibility, etc.
Terrible Typhoid Mary is not only informative but an engaging read as well. I found it very interesting and learned much. While it is a children’s non-fiction book, it is a worthy resource for teens/adults as well. I definitely recommend this selection for ages 12 and up. Perhaps a year or two younger if the reader really enjoy this style of literature.
Have your read Terrible Typhoid Mary? I’d love to hear your thoughts!