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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Mattie Cook lives with her mother and grandfather above the family's coffee shop when the historic 1793 yellow fever epidemic hits Philadelphia. After Mattie's mother becomes ill, Grandfather takes Mattie to the countryside to stay with friends. The journey is interrupted first by Grandfather's heart trouble and then by Mattie's contracting the fever. The two finally return to Philadelphia to discover the city in ruins (including their coffeehouse), and Mother is nowhere to be found. Grandfather's subsequent death leaves Mattie hopeless and alone until she's reunited with the family's black employee, Eliza.

Christian Beliefs

At the time of this epidemic, most blacks in Philadelphia were free because the Quakers believed slavery was against God's will. Mattie tells a merchant that she goes to church because her mother never lets her stay home. She prays on several occasions and reads from the Psalms, thanking God for His providence and deciding she'd like to end each day reading from the Bible. She even stops herself when she begins to ask for God's punishment on those who ransacked her family's coffeehouse.

Eliza prays faithfully and fervently for the fever victims, and Mattie later follows Eliza's lead in caring tirelessly for the sick and their families. An egg seller rants, saying those getting the fevers are sinners afflicted by God because they don't go to church.

Other Belief Systems

Though Mattie and other main characters adhere to Christian beliefs, it could be argued that Mattie's ultimate success in overcoming hardship isn't duly credited to God but to the power of self-reliance and personal strength.

Authority Roles

Mattie's mother is a harsh, bitter woman since the loss of her husband. She is weaker and more compliant after her battle with the fever, and she allows Mattie to take over the adult responsibilities at the coffeehouse. Affectionate, loving Grandfather is a war veteran who teaches Mattie how to be a good soldier. His lessons prove useful when they're stranded far from home, and he saves her life despite his own health problems. Prayerful, faithful Eliza provides a solid example of godly compassion for one's fellow man. President George Washington returns to Philadelphia after the epidemic slows. His presence provides hope of a return to normalcy.

Profanity/Violence

In a few scenes, people are “bled,” which some doctors then believed would get rid of the toxins causing yellow fever. People also vomit blood a few times. The descriptions aren't excessive or gratuitous, but it may make readers queasy.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

10 and up

Author

Laurie Halse Anderson

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Released

On Video

Year Published

2002

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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