Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fever 1793

Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Category: Historical Fiction 

Topic: Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia
Grade Level: 4 and 5
Students:  Mostly strong readers with just a few struggling or reluctant readers
Rating by: Nancy Hniedziejko in Pennsylvania
See Nancy's excellent blog post about using the novel in her classes at:

Historically Accurate?
(4) Yes and also includes historical notes, primary sources, etc.
(3) Yes
(2) A few inaccurate or misleading portrayals
(1) Not a bit

An Engaging Story?
(4) Almost all students will beg to keep reading
(3) Most students will get caught up in the story
(2) Some students will read ahead by mistake
(1) Students will groan when the book is mentioned

Prompts Discussion?
(4) Students will still be talking about it in the hallway
(3) Will prompt discussion about major issues in the past as well as today
(2) Will prompt discussion about the characters and the events in the book
(1) Will not prompt discussion

(4) Everyone - even the most reluctant readers – can get on board
(3) Can be used for a whole class read (Used as a read aloud together)
(2) Can only be used with a small high-powered reading group
(1) Recommend only to students that love reading

Age Appropriate Content?
____Too mature
_X__Just right
____Too simplistic

Amazon's Product Description:
"During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out.
Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie's world upside down. At her feverish mother's insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease."

Link to Reviews on Amazon
Link to the website of the author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Link to A Primary Source about the Yellow Fever Epidemic
Buy this book from your local bookstore via Indie Bound


  1. I had great success with this story during a summer book club. My students had fun acting out the symptoms of yellow fever. We also played games dealing with the book's theme, characters, etc. Those who didn't answer questions on time "got" the next phase of yellow fever. Gruesome and just what middle schoolers like!

  2. Thanks for your comment. That sounds like a great book club! I love the middle school attraction to the grotesque. It makes everything so fun!

  3. This story is very dark but I enjoyed it!

  4. I'm glad you liked it! It certainly is dark. Historical fiction has that challenge of needing to accurately capture the suffering of the past while not being so depressing that no one reads it. A tricky balance.

  5. I am a Technology Integration Specialist and had a chance to work with middle schoolers that read either Fever, 1793 or Chains (also by Laurie Halse Anderson). The students created scrapbook pages based on the characters and then uploaded them to VoiceThread. Students explained their pages and commented on each other pages. We were also lucky enough to have some experts from museums and research institutes comment. If you are interested, you can view the projects at:
    I agree with the comments above, students tore through this book and loved the disgusting parts. *grin*

  6. Wow. I just took a look at the Voice Thread projects. Fabulous! The scrapbook page is such a great way for students to process key parts of the book and the media format is so cool. I love that the students were able to get a wide range of feedback on their work. What a way to give their work meaning!

    And, if you have a chance, I'd love it if you would rate Chains for the site. That's another great book that it'd be good to spread the word about.

    Thanks so much for your comment! And for the inspiration!