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Review of Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
by Albert Marrin
Middle School, High School    Knopf    198 pp.
1/18    978-1-101-93146-2    $21.99
Library ed.  978-1-101-93147-9    $24.99
e-book ed.  978-1-101-93148-6    $11.99

Between 1918 and 1920, three waves of a very aggressive influenza virus swept around the globe, killing tens of millions of people. World War I was in full swing when the flu pandemic began, and it was abetted not only by the widespread movement of troops but also by the limited medical knowledge of the time. The focus here is tighter than in some previous Marrin books (e.g., Flesh & Blood So Cheap; Uprooted, rev. 1/17), but there are plenty of interesting digressions into the history of science and medicine, such as a review of previous plagues in history and a primer on basic virology. The narrative is enhanced by primary source quotations, black-and-white photographs, and maps, all revealing the toll the pandemic took on soldiers, families, cities, and nations. Recent waves of swine flu and avian flu serve to remind us that, despite the best efforts of the medical and scientific communities, an influenza pandemic of a similar magnitude could happen again, yet the ethics of preparing for such an event (restricting movement, quarantining victims, etc.) are clouded with debate and disagreement. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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