Terrible Typhoid Mary
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015
240 pages, ages 12 up
A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America
About the Book
This is the story of a cook—a quiet, diligent cook who kept to herself. Her specialty was homemade ice cream topped with fresh peaches, which she served on hot summer days. She worked for some of the wealthiest families in New York, who spoke highly of her skills.
In August 1906, when six members of one household nearly died, the cook mysteriously disappeared—and the hunt for Typhoid Mary began. The resulting story became a tabloid scandal. But the true story of Mary Mallon is far greater than the sensationalized and fear-mongering stories. It’s also a lesser known story of human and civil rights violations. How did this private and obscure domestic cook become one of the most notorious women in American history? What happens to a person whose name and reputation are forever damaged? And who is responsible for the lasting legacy of the woman who became known as Typhoid Mary?
Awards and Recognition
- Junior Library Guild Selection
- NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor book
Balancing the stories of the Klan and the former slaves’ determination to remake their lives, Bartoletti makes extensive use of congressional testimony, interviews, journals, diaries and slave narratives to allow the players to speak in their own voices as much as possible…An exemplar of history writing and a must for libraries and classrooms. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
Little is known about Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary, apart what can be garnered from case studies and wildly sensationalized newspaper articles, but Bartoletti impressively fills in the gaps with illuminating historical context and live descriptions of events … Expertly weaving together both historical background and contemporary knowledge about disease and public health …[a] completely captivating volume. (Booklist, starred review)
Bartoletti focuses more on Mary, using her as a lens through which to view—and analyze—a wider swath of American society. What was it like to be a servant, an immigrant, a woman at the dawn of the twentieth century? Bartoletti skillfully weaves the answers … [T]he book contains the hallmarks of excellent nonfiction … (The Horn Book, starred review)
Energetic, even charming prose will easily engage readers … Middle grade biography lovers will gravitate toward this compelling title. (School Library Journal, starred review)
Thoroughly researched biography … this study of Mallon’s ill-fated life is as much an examination of the period in which she lived, including the public’s ignorance about the spread and treatment of disease, the extreme measures health officials took to advance science, and how yellow journalism’s sensationalized stories could ruin someone’s reputation. (Publishers Weekly)