Fever Year by Don Brown

Don Brown tells the story of Spanish Influenza in three acts in this graphic novel format nonfiction book for young teens.

Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918 by Don Brown. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019. 96 pages.

  • Reading Level: Ages 12-15
  • Recommended For: Ages 12 and up
cover image of fever year

The Spanish Influenza was catastrophic, killing hundreds of thousands of people right in the midst of WWI. In actuality, the war itself helped spread the deadly virus around the globe as soldiers traveled from one country to the other. Modern medical science is vastly improved over that of 100 years ago, not least of which includes the readily available means to simply wash our hands (at least in America). But we are not immune to threats of pandemic even in the 21st century.

Don Brown tells the story of this tragedy in three acts. His minimal palette of browns, white, and the occasional splash of a bright orange/red color skillfully reinforces the somber mood. Brown tells a larger story than that of the Spanish flu, one that revolves around science and history, what causes a global pandemic, and what scientists are doing about it today. The final pages ask thought-provoking questions about the preservation of samples of Spanish Influenza: should we have preserved any, even for the sake of science? An extensive bibliography rounds out this book.

Fever Year is a good choice to read with students wanting to understand how disease spreads or who read a mention of the Spanish flu in a history book and want to know more. The graphic novel format works well at reinforcing the humanity of the story even while maintaining some journalistic distance. We can also remind our children and students that the Lord is still in control, even when times look dark. And we can thank him for modern medical science, clean water, and other privileges many of us in America share!

Considerations:

  • Although historically accurate and respectfully portrayed, a lot of people sicken and die in this book.
  • The final pages of the book may make some children already prone to anxiety even more anxious, particularly in light of the current news about covid-19.

Overall Rating: 4/5

  • Artistic Rating: 4.5/5
  • Worldview/Moral Rating: 3.5/5

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Betsy

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

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