Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. SchaferBacteria spreading infectious diseases have threatened humans for centuries. In five brief chapters, this “Crabtree Chrome” series volume summarizes complex medical, demographic, religious, and cultural aspects of several historic plagues in various geographic areas and time periods, stating trade and unhygienic, crowded conditions contributed to plague spreading. Sensory details immerse readers into the horrors populations experienced when confronted by plague. Grotesque contemporary images and modern illustrations emphasize devastation plagues wreaked. Comments by plague witnesses, such as sixth-century historian Procopius and fourteenth-century writer Giovanni Boccaccio, describe macabre scenes they observed. People were unaware why plague occurred until an 1894 Chinese epidemic. The text vaguely refers to two scientists who solved that medical mystery in the 1890s, but does not identify them as Alexandre Yersin, who determined bacteria, later named Yersinia pestis, caused bubonic plague, and Shibasabur? Kitasato, who achieved similar findings. A sidebar acknowledges that by 1898 Paul-Louis Simond realized fleas transmitted plague. Although historic use of plague for weapons is noted, potential distribution of plague for future bioterrorism is ignored. Research developing plague vaccines and sequencing plague bacteria DNA is also overlooked. Investigations revealing some residents of medieval Eyam, England were immune to plague because they had a mutated gene are omitted. Inclusion of a photograph of penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming is misleading because medical experts know that antibiotic is ineffective to combat plague. Despite stressing plague remains a health risk, this book does not examine efforts by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor twenty-first century plague outbreaks. Provides bibliography, glossary, and index but no citations for sources of facts and quotations. Supplement with Joseph P. Byrne’s Encyclopedia of the Black Death (2012). Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer; Ages 10 up.
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