The Deadliest ­Diseases Then and Now

Scholastic Focus. Oct. 2021. 2,241p. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781338360202; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781338360226.
Gr 6-9–The first in a new series has a timely topic. The bulk of the volume focuses on the bubonic plague from the 14th century to the 1910s, alternating historical and science chapters, and frequently debunking established theories. The author’s chummy use of the first person “we” lets readers learn alongside her as she reveals information gleaned from experts, transforming her writing into the style of one of the Middle Ages plague chroniclers she frequently quotes. Additional chapters on the 1918 influenza and COVID-19 pandemics add context to understanding how far medicine has come in handling contagious diseases. Informative captioned photographs alternate with evocative pen-and-ink illustrations. Bold vocabulary words are explained contextually as well as defined in the corresponding glossary. Supplemental materials include two fun quizzes and a call to be “a Twenty-First Century Chronicler” of COVID-19, as well as further reading and a selected bibliography. Source notes, which the author describes as analogous to “evidence that a detective collects to make a case,” and a comprehensive index also support researchers.
VERDICT Good for budding middle school epidemiologists and history buffs who can’t resist a book about diseases.

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