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Get Kids Talking with These Books! January 2017 Middle School

December 15th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Middle School | January

fatal feverFatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow. Calkins Creek/Highlights, 2015

Sanitary engineer and chemist George Soper functioned as a “germ detective” in the early 20th century. After a typhoid outbreak in Ithaca, New York, in 1903 infected local residents and Cornell University students, Soper tracked the contamination source to a creek and recommended better practices in outhouse siting and maintenance, as well as construction of a city water filtration plant. When six members of the Thompson family of New York City fell ill with typhoid in the summer of 1906, the family hired Soper. Through a meticulous process of elimination Soper determined that a cook, Mary Mallon, was the most likely source of the bacteria. When public heath doctor Sara Josephine Baker tracked down Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, Mallon refused to believe she carried typhoid. Mallon’s case became a civil rights issue when she was quarantined against her will on Brother’s Island off the coast of Manhattan. Finally released if she promised not to work again as cook, she was returned to the island after another typhoid outbreak was traced to her. She lived there the rest of her life, even as it was acknowledged she was surely far from the only typhoid carrier in the city. Soper’s rigorous methodology, Baker’s doggedness, and Mary Mallon’s unfortunate story illustrate the confluence of science, detective work, and social attitudes during the early decades of the 20th century. This captivating, well-researched volume is augmented by numerous photographs and back matter that includes source notes, a timeline, and bibliography. (MVL) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How was Mary Mallon treated fairly? unfairly? Why?
  2. What would a germ detective like George Soper be investigating today?
  3. This story was told from a medical perspective. Whose side or perspective of the story would you like to hear?

orbitingjupiterOrbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion, 2015

Jack is in sixth grade when his parents bring a foster child to their small farm in Maine. Fourteen-year-old Joseph is from an abusive background and got into trouble for attacking a teacher. He is also a father, of a baby girl named Jupiter whom he’s never met. A chronic runaway from juvenile detention placements, Joseph arrives withdrawn and uncommunicative. Taking his cue from how the farm’s cows respond to Joseph, Jack is loyal to his foster brother from the first day they go to school together. While most of the kids and teachers assume Joseph is bad news, a few look deeper and see a boy who is smart and kind, but deeply hurt. Eventually Joseph learns to trust Jack and his parents enough to share his whole story. How he met 13-year-old Madeleine and how the time they spent together was solace from the rest of his painful life. How Madeleine ended up pregnant and was sent away. How she died but the baby lived. Now Joseph is aching to see his daughter, who is in foster care with her status in limbo because Joseph’s father—a volatile and violent man—will not sign off on the papers allowing adoption. Hauntingly real characters and disciplined writing that maintains a tight and true emotional core centers Joseph’s dramatic tragedy within Jack’s perspective.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What challenges would an 8th grader face if he or she was a parent?
  2. How do the adults in Joseph’s life help him? How did the adults hold him back?
  3. How do you feel about the conclusion of this book?

Find more resources for Fatal Fever and Orbiting Jupiter from TeachingBooks.net.

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