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Very, Very, Very Dreadful
Cover of Very, Very, Very Dreadful
Very, Very, Very Dreadful
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
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From National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin comes a fascinating look at the history and science of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic—and its chilling and timely resemblance to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.
Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people—one-third of the global population at the time—came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.
In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge—and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year!
From National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin comes a fascinating look at the history and science of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic—and its chilling and timely resemblance to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.
Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people—one-third of the global population at the time—came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.
In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge—and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year!
Available formats-
  • Kindle Book
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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    8.0
  • Lexile:
    1040
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    6 - 8

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Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book

    I

     

     

     

    The Pitiless War

     

     

     

    Infectious disease is one of the great tragedies of living things—the struggle for existence between different forms of life. . . . Incessantly the pitiless war goes on, without quarter or armistice.

     

    —Hans Zinsser, Rats, Lice and History, 1935

     

     

     

    Visitors from the Deep Past

     

     

    For untold generations, before the invention of written history, people lived in small bands of relatives numbering, at most, a few dozen members. Our distant ancestors were merely creatures among other creatures, struggling to survive in an untamed wilderness. Called “hunter-gatherers” by modern social scientists, they were nomads, wanderers, people without a fixed place to live or call home. Each band had little contact with other bands, going from place to place, hunting animals and gathering roots, nuts, berries, and fruits to eat.

     

    Unable to preserve or store food, nomads had to move continually, and on foot, to find their next meal. Without the wheel, a later invention, they also lacked draft animals; they kept no animals, except dogs, used for hunting and, in a pinch, for a meal. They carried their few possessions strapped to their backs or lashed between two wooden poles, which the women dragged along the ground. The able-bodied men walked ahead, armed with clubs, stone-tipped spears, and bows and arrows, eyes peeled for danger or for game to pursue. Camps usually were just overnight stops to eat and sleep. But if the hunting in an area was good, the band might stay for a few days longer to butcher a kill, fill their bellies, and rest up for the trek ahead.

     

    Hunting accidents, wounds, falls from trees, feuds within a band, and clashes with other bands took a steady toll. Still, the nomadic lifestyle had one advantage: it limited the impact of infectious diseases carried by animals.

     

    All types of living beings have diseases that afflict them alone. Sometimes, however, a disease attacking one life-form “crosses over” and infects another life-form. Ancient nomads did not live amid heaps of rubbish, their own waste, and polluted water. After a few days at a campsite, they moved on, leaving behind any disease-causing microbes that might be around. If a disease crossed over to, say, a hunter, he might die. The disease might even infect the entire band, killing everyone. But that would be the end of the disease; it stopped when there was no one left to infect. It could flourish only by becoming a “crowd disease,” infecting a population large enough to allow victims to pass it to the healthy.1

     

    About 11,000 years ago, humankind reached a critical turning point. Across the world, big game animals—mastodons, giant sloths, and saber-toothed tigers—became extinct, probably due to over-killing by the hunters themselves. Naturally, as food became scarcer, nomads sought other ways of feeding themselves. Many began to experiment, growing wild plants like wheat, barley, and rice for food. They also learned to domesticate wild animals; that is, to tame and raise them. Cattle, horses, oxen, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, and chickens: all became important food sources, and some, like horses and oxen, became work animals.

     

    This turning point, called the Agricultural Revolution, placed new demands on people. Above all, it required the cooperation of several groups living close together. Of necessity, hunter-gatherer bands settled into permanent communities when they...

About the Author-
  • Albert Marrin is the author of numerous nonfiction books for young readers, including the National Book Award finalist Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triange Fire and Its Legacy; Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During WWII; A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown's War Against Slavery; Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives, and Thomas Paine: Crusader for Liberty, and FDR and the American Crisis.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2017
    A comprehensive history of the influenza pandemic of 1918, the worst global killer that humankind has experienced. Historian Marrin (Uprooted, 2016, etc.) begins four years earlier, at the beginning of World War I. Liberally referencing research, partial statistics, diaries, medical records, newspaper articles, art, photographs, poetry, song, and literature, Marrin works to give an accurate depiction of the circumstances and ill-timed incidents that led to the global catastrophe, which killed at least three times as many people as the war worldwide. The author does not neglect the squalor around the globe: ill soldiers in trenches and overcrowded barracks, suffering families, orphaned children, hunger and undernourishment, and deaths so numerous that bodies are stacked upon bodies. Marrin reveals how scientists and doctors knew little about influenza a century ago, as surgeons and physicians didn't practice routine hygiene or quarantine and were often rendered helpless; in fact, he argues (albeit briefly) that nurses turned out to be most useful against influenza, for they provided supportive care. He then brings the eye-opening narrative to the present, detailing the search for the origins of influenza; recent scientific breakthroughs; the emergence of the H5N1 strain; and how, without intending to, scientists have brought the virus to a risky, imminent pandemic. Not one to shy away from unnerving details, Marrin relays what researchers and scientist express today: another influenza pandemic will unquestionably strike again. (notes, bibliography, further reading, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 13, 2017
    Marrin (Uprooted) presents a gripping analysis of “history’s worst-ever health disaster,” the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918, which infected 500 million people worldwide (“one-third of the human race at the time”) over an 18-month period. Moving easily through relevant background, from the development of urban centers to contemporary medical practices, he identifies two primary factors: the wretched and overcrowded conditions of WWI battlegrounds, hospitals, and training camps, combined with ignorance of the cause of and best ways to contain influenza. Modern transportation methods, prioritizing war over health, a weakened civilian population, and a virulent mutation of the virus all contributed to the staggering death toll (estimated at between 50 million and 100 million). An engrossing chapter addresses the U.S. response, uncoordinated efforts to combat the pandemic that were often essentially “worthless.” Much of the current understanding of the contagion derives from research done since the 1930s; Marrin’s lucid presentation of it concludes with a sobering assessment of the risks of a similar pandemic, perhaps involving a mutated strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus as “the ultimate terrorist weapon.” Archival photos, notes, and reading suggestions are included. Ages 12–up.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2017

    Gr 7 Up-Seasoned nonfiction author Marrin returns with a thorough and entertaining telling of the Influenza Pandemic that swept the world during World War I, described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history." The narrative relays the progress of human disease from hunting and gathering days to the rise of "scientific medicine," with a discussion of biological agents from bacteria to viruses. Readers experience the public health crisis from its believed beginning in Kansas through its evolution from outbreak to epidemic to pandemic. The story allows for the wider context of the intertwined fates of the war and the disease, from trenches to overcrowded hospitals. Marrin's story of the flu in his own family (fighting with the Red Army, his father was stricken while stationed in Siberia and survived) adds an interesting personal touch. This anecdote emphasizes a key point: the pandemic was unique in its target population in that it disproportionately affected young adults. Marrin's exhaustive research leaves no topic untouched. The back matter of extensive notes and suggestions for further reading emphasize the meticulous degree of Marrin's research. Pair with Makiia Lucier's A Death-Struck Year for a fictional complement with a personalized perspective. VERDICT A solid nonfiction selection to middle and high school collections that emphasizes history, defense strategy, and medicine.-Deidre Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 15, 2017
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* Acclaimed for incisive explorations of America's bleakest moments, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (Flesh & Blood So Cheap, 2011) to WWII-era Japanese internment camps (Uprooted, 2016), Marrin homes in on the most deadly disease event in the history of humanity. Raging from early 1918 to mid-1920, the influenza pandemic, aptly dubbed the devil virus, crescendoed in three lethal waves, spanned continents, and claimed an estimated 50- to 100-million lives worldwide. In six riveting chapters, Marrin examines the virus's precursors, including past plagues and prior medical breakthroughs, its aftermath, and its festering backdropthe congested trenches and training camps of WWI. While the pandemic's scope is broad and undiscerning, Marrin's approach is the opposite. With razor-sharp precision, he carefully presents genetic mutations, coffin shortages, the disease's devastating grip on colonized Africa, the direct correlation between women working as nurses and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and much more. Marrin's conclusion, too, pulls no punches; after all, when it comes to future pandemics, it's not a matter of if one will occur, but when. Fusing hard science and jump-rope rhymes, first-person accounts and crystalline prose, cold reason and breathtaking sensitivity, Marrin crafts an impeccably researched, masterfully told, and downright infectious accountcomplete with lurid black-and-white photos throughout. This is nonfiction at its best.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

  • Booklist, starred review "This is nonfiction at its best."
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Very, Very, Very Dreadful
Very, Very, Very Dreadful
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
Albert Marrin
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