A Shot in the Arm!

Abrams/Amulet. (Big Ideas That Changed the World: Bk. 3). Mar. 2021. 144p. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781419750014.
Gr 5 Up–Brown lays out the history of vaccinations in this relevant addition to the “Big Ideas That Changed the World” series. Narrator Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an early Western champion of inoculation, marches readers through the history of smallpox, a highly contagious disease that claimed millions of lives all over the world, leaving survivors disfigured and blind. Born in 1689, Lady Mary had her own children inoculated, having learned of the practice from her time in the Ottoman Empire. When Princess Caroline of Wales discovered it, she commissioned an experiment on prisoners before having her own children safeguarded. This kicked off not only the normalization of inoculation in the Western world but also the critical research that led to safer methods of disease prevention, such as vaccinating people with the less deadly cowpox. Brown travels through time, covering the effective eradication of polio before arriving finally at the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout, he emphasizes there were always those who did not trust scientists and doctors. The U.S. Supreme Court even ruled in the 1880s that Cambridge, MA, had “the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members” by making smallpox vaccination mandatory. The blue and sepia tones add a nostalgic wash to the clean, clear layouts. Brown’s decisive tone is at times firm, often playful, and never condescending.
VERDICT Shedding light on a topic that’s all too timely, this thorough chronicle of vaccination is essential for all libraries.

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