Thursday, May 29, 2014

Medical Mysteries

I’m halfway through reading Gail Jarrow’s new book for middle school and older, Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat. 

 I find myself admiring the way the author emphasizes the medical mystery involved in figuring out the cause of  the disease pellagra, which killed many in the U.S. in the first part of the twentieth century.  So far in my reading, she's explored how doctors first responded to the problem and their ideas about what was going on.  Was it from eating moldy corn?  Was it airborne? Was it the lack of some nutrient as with scurvy?  I haven’t reached the answer yet but the focus has shifted to researchers and the increasing importance of public health agencies.  Quick descriptions are included throughout of real people who suffered from the disease, often losing their mental capacities and dying.

As someone who chooses mystery novels if I’m in the mood for escape reading, I’d recommend this to a teen who likes mystery novels for their plot more than for their characters.  Kids who like grim facts and gruesome photographs will also love this book.  Pellagra causes an ugly rash seen in many historical photographs and on the book jacket.  And the story also offers heroes, doctors and scientists some of whom risked their health and even their lives to find the answers and try to end the suffering.

There are so many good nonfiction disease books to pair this with.  Since they are high appeal, a group of them would make a good book display.  Here are a few more:


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