Last year when my son and I were studying WW1 we learned about the Spanish flu. What a horrifying disease. Raincoast recently sent me a book to review called Fever Year. Using graphic novel format, Don Brown sets out to educate middle schoolers about this world-wide flu.
What I am Reviewing
Don Brown is the author and illustrator of Fever Year: the Killer Flu of 1918. A hardcover graphic novel of 96 pages published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The talented Whitney Leader-Picone did the jacket design.
This book is written with youth 12 years of age and up. It is factual without being overly dramatic. The goal is the help middle schoolers understand the horror of this disease, and how frustrated the medical profession was at trying to find a cure. I am reviewing Fever Year on the behest of Raincoast books.
The Details of Fever Year
The war is raging in Europe. The battle is being fiercely fought, and now America has entered the battle. But ….. people are getting ill, dying in droves. What is this threat? It’s the Spanish flu.
This is the story of how the battle unfolded. The frustration of the medical personnel. The fear of the common people. It was a hard time. Through clear, careful illustrations Don Brown brings these emotions across. With colours ranging in sepia, tan, dark shadings you can sense the horror of those days quite keenly. This isn’t a happy book, but it is instructive.
It is divided into three parts, the first act when it first showed up in 1918. Act two it’s movement around the globe, and finally act three with flare ups in 1919 through to 1922.
The shades of black and brown add to the tone of this informative book. It’s less of a story than a walk through the progression of the disease. A discussion into the curious nature of it’s movement. It could move across a continent in a day affecting the lives of 100’s of people, and yet take 3 weeks to traverse 80 miles.
The reader learns the life cycle of the influenza virus as well as the technical names that go with it. For a student looking for an introductory book into the wonders/horrors of the Spanish flu, this book would top my list. It asks good questions, provides interesting answers and begs the reader to ask more.
Should you get it?
I know that Fever Year will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is not an easy read. The topic is difficult and the ending leaves one feeling concerned for the future. Setting that aside though, the information about the plague, the struggle to endure, the mystery of how it spread, and how it disappeared again. Such a really interesting story.
If you have any interest in learning about the Great War and one of the many factors affecting it. If you have a strong curiousity in history, medical or otherwise, Fever Year is a great primer into exploring the questions surrounding The Spanish Flu. This reviewer thoroughly enjoyed it and would happily read other books by Don Brown.