Terrible Typhoid Mary

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Title: Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America

Author: Susan Bartoletti Campbell

Summary: In turn-of-the-century America, typhoid was a serious and deadly illness. It was spread through unsanitary behaviors such as not properly washing hands or living in close contact with sick people in cramped environments. However, this was before people understood ‘germ theory’ – the idea that microscopic things, invisible to they eye – cause disease. For many people, this was not science, but silliness. Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant with an impeccable record as a servant and cook employed by rich families in New York City, was a medical marvel: While she carried the typhoid bacteria, she was not herself, visibly ill or suffering from the symptoms of the disease. After several outbreaks in homes she worked in, including some that were fatal, Ms. Mallon was identified as the cause and her life and reputation would never be the same.

This engaging story brings up many interesting questions: Did ‘Typhoid Mary’ understand what she was doing? Was she a villain or a victim? Did she deserve the treatment she received at the hands of authorities? Can science always be trusted? How should we treat people who are ill in our society? Should they share the same rights as healthy people? A true story that echoes through our society to this day, this book will give you chills and make you want to wash your hands, right away.

Who will like this book?: Younger readers who like true stories of science, medicine and illness. People interested in history, especially medical history of the history of New York City. Anyone who likes a story with a secretive main character.

If you like this, try this: Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Song Machine

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Title: The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Machine

Author: John Seabrook

Summary: Have you ever wondered why the music on the radio all sort of sounds the same? This book will tell you why…and basically, you can blame Sweden. Author Seabrook investigates the way most pop music is made today: by armies of technicians individually responsible for each element of the tune, from melody to lyrics to the all-important hooks that grab and keep the listener’s attention. The science of modern song craft is explored in-depth, with details about the rise of Scandinavian hit-makers like Max Martin (who has produced more number 1 hits than anyone besides George Martin, who worked with the Beatles), the type of artists who thrive under the guidance of super-producers, the fate of the session musicians who have been replaced by computer beats, and what the digital future of music means for record labels, artists and the listening public.

This book will resonate with anyone who loves music, especially those who love (or love to hate) today’s top hits and hit-makers including Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for something a little different to read this winter season.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in the mechanics of music production. Non-fiction fans who like reading about contemporary topics.

If you like this, try this: How Music Works by David Byrne. Decoded by Jay-Z. For younger readers: Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham. For a perspective on this trend from a different era: Rhythm Ride: A Roadtrip through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Symphony for the City of the Dead

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Title: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Author: M.T. Anderson

Summary: During World War II, the Russian city of Leningrad, formerly known as St. Petersburg, was bombed and held under siege by Nazi forces for almost three years, unable to obtain fresh food or other necessities for survival. Starving and desperate, residents of the cosmopolitan cultural capital of the nation endured unspeakable horrors. It was the stuff of nightmares, but it was also a source of inspiration, as famous composer Dmitri Shostakovich created a piece of music that would come to demonstrate to the war-torn world the incredible strength of his native city, the Seventh Symphony.

Born before the Russian Revolution, Shostakovich was a living witness to an incredible time in world history. This stunning and impeccably researched work of non-fiction describes the epic story of the war in the U.S.S.R. by telling the story of this one man, an artist who had been held up a both a hero and a pariah by those in charge over the course of his turbulent life. This book is challenging and deeply rewarding, much like author Anderson’s acclaimed fiction including Feed and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Even if you think you know all there is to know about World War II, this book will surprise you.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in history. Musicians and artists. People who are curious about everyday life under war conditions.

If you like this, try this: For more on Russian history, try The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming. The Road of Bones by Ann Fine. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. For mature readers, City of Thieves by David Benioff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Queen of Someday

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Title: Queen of Someday

Author: Sherry D. Ficklin

Summary: Sophie knows she must do her duty to her family, her country and the emperor. That this means leaving the only home she has ever known to attempt to secure a marriage to a boy prince she has only met once in her life is out of her control. Driven by her ambitious mother, Sophie makes the journey to the cold heart of Russia, ruled by Empress Elizabeth and her nephew, the heir, Peter. Once she arrives, she must defend herself against palace intrigue, rival princesses and the desires of her own heart. Can she master the subtle rules of the court, form the alliances she needs to surpass her enemies and survive the treacherous atmosphere to someday become queen?

This is a great, quick read for anyone who likes romance and historical fiction. Sophie is a strong, resourceful character who you will root for, even as she makes mistakes. While it can be a little loose with the historical facts of young Sophie’s life, the basic story follows the biographical record. You will race through this book and want to read the whole series to see how it all turns out for the princess as she begins the journey that will see her become one of the most powerful and controversial royals in history.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like historical fiction based on real people. Romantics. People who like stories about royalty. Fans of the television show Reign.

If you like this, try this: The forthcoming books in the series, Queen of Tomorrow and Queen of Forever. For a quick look at the (scandalous) reign of Catherine II, read her installment of the Wicked History biography series. You can also take a look at the princess-based series of Carolyn Meyer and Esther Friesner.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

My Friend Dahmer

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Title: My Friend Dahmer

Author/Illustrator: Derf Backderf

Summary: Jeffrey Dahmer was a notorious serial killer, responsible for the deaths of 17 men and boys. But before he became a monster, he was a kid growing up in the Midwest alongside author/illustrator Derf. This graphic memoir brings the reader into their world and shows how Dahmer’s crimes had as much to do with the people in his life who failed to see to the warning signs as his own troubled psyche. Beginning with their first acquaintance in middle school in the 1970s, the author tracks his evolving acquaintance with the weird, introverted boy who always seemed to be on the outside looking in.

Derf does not excuse Jeff’s horrifying crimes, but he asks the readers to look a little deeper at the circumstances that enabled Dahmer to become a killer. This book is more about how our actions can have consequences beyond our own understanding at the time. Derf also includes a terrific bibliography and information about his research for those interested in learning more about Dahmer and his crimes. This excellent graphic novel deserves to be read. It is not an easy book, but it is one that you will remember.

Who will like this book?: Older, mature readers interested in crime stories and psychology. This book is disturbing and intense – but it is very thought-provoking and memorable.

If you like this, read this: Stitches by David Small. The true crime graphic novels by Rick Geary, including Jack the Ripper, The Borden Tragedy and The Lindbergh Child. Columbine by Dave Cullen.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Watch That Ends the Night

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Title: The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

Author: Allan Wolf

Summary: It is April 15, 1912. Undertaker John Snow is on a cable boat, heading towards the site of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century: The sinking of the RMS Titanic. He thinks he sees birds floating on the surface of the water but as he gets closer, he sees what they really are: Frozen bodies. From this intense and gripping opening scene we are sent back in time to the beginning of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Through the voices of over 20 actual people who were on board the ship, from the Captain and Shipbuilder, to famous travelers like John Jacob Astor and Margaret “The Unsinkable Molly” Brown, to unknown passengers from third class, we follow the Titanic from the excitement before its maiden voyage to its launch to its destruction in the frigid North Atlantic by iceberg.

You may be familiar with the Titanic from that famous movie. But author and poet Wolf presents the story in such a complete and thorough way that both readers who know nothing and who know it all will be entranced. Written in verse, it is a quick and compelling read. Even the iceberg and the ship’s rat get to share their story. Sure, you know how it ends, but this is a book about the journey, not the destination. The final section of the book is devoted to facts about the ship and those who sailed on it, giving a grim description of the grandeur of the Titanic and the scope of its legendary tragedy.

Who will like this book?: This is the official One Book One Town 2012 selection for Fairfield, so…everybody! The 100-year anniversary of the Titanic’s voyage is on it’s way so this is a book for anyone interested in this famous disaster story. Fans of adventure and historical fiction. People who like hearing a story from more than one point of view. Fans of Ellen Hopkins, Sonia Sones, and other verse novelists.

If you like this, try this: A classic, A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn. Iceberg Right Ahead by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Find this book and more at the Fairfield Public Library.

Tom Thumb

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Title: Tom Thumb: The Remarkable True Story of a Man in Miniature

Author: George Sullivan

Summary: Charles Stratton was born in 1838 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was a big, healthy, happy baby – just what any parents would wish for. But when he turned one, he just…stopped growing. He was in perfect proportion: His arms, legs, and head were all the right size for his tiny body. When another Connecticut native, the soon-to-be legendary P.T. Barnum, was introduced to the five year-old Charley, both their worlds would be changed forever. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship that would make them both incredibly rich.

Charles Stratton, renamed Tom Thumb by Barnum, was the first celebrity performer in U.S. history. He traveled the world, showed off for kings and queens and his marriage to another little person, Lavinia Warren, even preempted coverage of the Civil War. But he never had a true childhood or much time out of the public eye. Was he exploited by Barnum for his size or did he triumph despite of it? This fascinating biography will let you find your own answer to these questions.

Who will like this book?: This is a terrific book for anyone interested in people who have triumphed over adversity.  It is also an important piece of local history – Charley was born and is buried in Bridgeport, CT.

If you like this, try this: The Great and Only Barnum by Candice Fleming. For older readers, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian