Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease

Calkins Creek. (Medical Fiascoes). Oct. 2020. 176p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781684371761.
Gr 7 Up–Jarrow (Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary; The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs) provides another medical nonfiction work filled with viscerally repulsive images and facts. This book focuses on the death rates, diseases, and medical procedures of the American Civil War. One of the chapters, “Pus and Gangrene,” sets the tone for the content. This is not a title for the sensitive stomach, as there are photos of amputated limbs, gangrenous sores, and corpses. However, readers who are drawn to the drama of sickness, death, and war will find this a fascinating overview. Broader statistics are supplemented by quotes from diaries and individual biographies of soldiers, doctors, and nurses. Historical photographs and news excerpts give this a narrative nonfiction feel. Shorter chapters with section headings make this a less daunting read. Some of the vocabulary and content lean towards technical. Younger readers might get overwhelmed or confused with some of the medical terms and quotes from historical sources. Older children will appreciate the compelling study of a time period where chopping off limbs and putting live maggots onto rotting flesh were regular medical practices. Jarrow also notes the contributions of women and people of color during an era that tends to focus on white men.
VERDICT A good choice for middle and high school teachers or librarians who want to update their history section with a lively and attention-grabbing resource.

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