Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918

Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918

by Don Brown


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From the Sibert Honor–winning creator behind The Unwanted and Drowned City comes one of the darkest episodes in American history: the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. This nonfiction graphic novel explores the causes, effects, and lessons learned from a major epidemic in our past, and is the perfect tool for engaging readers of all ages, especially teens and tweens learning from home.
New Year’s Day, 1918. America has declared war on Germany and is gathering troops to fight. But there’s something coming that is deadlier than any war.
When people begin to fall ill, most Americans don’t suspect influenza. The flu is known to be dangerous to the very old, young, or frail. But the Spanish flu is exceptionally violent. Soon, thousands of people succumb. Then tens of thousands . . . hundreds of thousands and more. Graves can’t be dug quickly enough.
What made the influenza of 1918 so exceptionally deadly—and what can modern science help us understand about this tragic episode in history? With a journalist’s discerning eye for facts and an artist’s instinct for true emotion, Sibert Honor recipient Don Brown sets out to answer these questions and more in Fever Year.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Candace Fleming

Middle school students often tell me that history is boring…Thank goodness, then, for…books like Fever Year…Brown is a master of the graphic page. Like some sort of artistic juggler he tosses panels one on top of another, changing perspective from image to image and switching scale and point of view in stunning and surprsing ways. The result is both affective and affecting…Quotes. Statistics. Dates. Fact. Brown has taken the so-called "boring stuff" of history, combined it with masterly graphic composition and sensitive drawings and created something wonderful—a story that not only pulls us in, but pulls at our heartstrings. He has made the past matter. Young readers will not be indifferent to this telling. They certainly will not be bored.

Publishers Weekly


In 1918, a devastating influenza epidemic swept across the globe, infecting one-third of the world’s population and killing an estimated 50 million people. Organized as “a three-act tragedy,” this slim graphic novel describes the spread of the 1918 Spanish flu with an unemotional narrative voice supplemented by direct quotes from historical accounts. Act I provides historical context and documents the first tremors of the outbreak in the U.S. and its spread to Europe. Act II, the bulk of the book, chronicles the worst of the pandemic, spotlighting the valiant efforts of medical professionals as well as various attempts at cures, from home remedies to the work of dedicated scientists. Act III covers the culmination of the disease and the later discovery of the virus responsible. Though the majority of deaths took place outside of the U.S. and Europe, the book rarely looks beyond these locations. Brown (Drowned City) matches his economical text with art that skillfully depicts the steadily growing horror. Grim figures, often with indistinguishably miserable faces, appear against empty cities and overflowing hospitals or in anonymous crowds of the infected, all painted in a muted, muddy palette that is stark and effective. A succinct epilogue summarizes this already concise introduction to the epidemic and its devastating impact. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

"Brown is comics’ premiere chronicler of historical catastrophes."—Booklist

Brown (Drowned City) matches his economical text with art that skillfully depicts the steadily growing horror."—Publishers Weekly

[R]eads like a horror story....a gripping real-life drama for youngsters who just like a pulse-pounding read as well as those with historical or scientific leanings."—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books​


Kirkus Reviews

A general overview of the flu pandemic of 1918.

While World War I was raging, a particularly virulent influenza began to strike civilians and soldiers alike. No one knew, at first, that a virus caused the disease, and it spread rapidly and apparently randomly—a fact underscored by Brown's (The Unwanted, 2018, etc.) use of statistics regarding mortality rates and the pace of infection from locations around the globe. One of the more confusing aspects of this flu was that it seemed to strike the healthy and young rather than the old and infirm. But this information, along with other facts—e.g. why black American nurses were not allowed to serve overseas—is not explored further. Also not explored, frustratingly, is what made this particular flu so deadly. The story emphasizes the important work of nurses as well as the complete ineffectiveness of health officials and civic leaders in combating the disease and preventing its spread, but it doesn't delve beneath the surface. Brown's illustrations, done in a sketchy style with a muted palette, are clear but lack vigor. The majority of people portrayed are white, and characters of power and interest are mainly white men, but this white male default as a Western society norm is not challenged. The term "colored" is modified with "sic" but is not contextualized.

Long on death, short on depth. (source notes, bibliography) (Graphic history. 12-14)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544837409
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 09/03/2019
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 113,708
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: GN1020L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

Customer Reviews