Fever, 1793

January book report A historical fiction novel for teens written by Laurie Halse Anderson and Steve Scott

From book

Matilda Cook is born


Matilda lives with her mother and grandfather above the family coffeehouse. She lives in Philadelphia and has no additional siblings. She also has an orange cat named Silas who enjoys catching mice, and a parrot named King George her grandfather won.

family coffeehouse was built


Matilda's father built the coffeehouse when Matilda was four. It was located just off the corner of Seventh and High Streets. At first they didn't get many customers, but business improved after General Washington's new house was built just two blocks away. Her father died two months after the shop opened.

Polly dies


Polly was an old friend of Matilda's, and a serving girl at the coffeehouse. the presume she had caught Yellow Fever. She had been sewing by candlelight after dinner and then collapsed. She died peacefully in her own bed.

Mother falls ill with Yellow Fever


Mattie and her grandfather are walking home when they see a man dump a frail body on the coffeehouse doorstep. the body belongs to her still-living mother. They carry her to the bedroom and call a physician who tells them falsely that she does not have the fever. They let her sleep and bathe her every four hours hoping that would cure her.

Mattie leaves for the Ludingtons' home


After her mother falls ill, Mattie and her grandfather take a wagon with a man, a woman, and an infant to the country to stay with a friend of her mother's. When trying to pass the border to another city, they are stopped to be checked for the fever.The doctor at the border assumes Grandfather has the fever after he has a very bad coughing fit. The two are tossed out of the wagon without their stuff.

Matilda gets the fever

09/12/1793 - 09/24/1793

Mattie wakes up in a strange hospital with many fever victims beside her. Her nurse, Mrs. Flagg, helps her recover by making sure she is fed and drinks plenty of fluids. while Mattie is still in the hospital Grandfather goes back to the house to find Mattie's mother but instead finds the house locked up tight. they figure she has gone to find them at the Ludingtons'.

Mattie, meet Nell


after her grandfather was buried, Mattie walked around the almost deserted town looking for anyone she, or her mother, knew. During this unnerving walk she found a china doll with a broken head laying outside an open door. She saw a young female child sitting, crying on the ground. The child, Nell, said to Mattie that her mother was "broken."

Lost and found


With little Nell in her arms Mattie walks some more looking for anyone she knew. Soon she finds their old cook, Eliza. Eliza takes Mattie and Nell back to her home and feeds them both even though they only had enough food for four servings. Mattie meets Mother Smith, who cooks and takes care of the children, William and Robert, while Joseph recovers, and Eliza works. Nell and the boys are close in age, and get along well.

the first frost


Mattie wakes to the freezing ground in the garden. The first frost to begin to kill off the fever has arrived. Eliza and Mattie work together to put the furniture and bedding out in the cold to get rid of the germs. The children nap outside to cool down the fever and they all enjoy the cold.

Another one found


Before initially leaving her home she received a painting and no from Nathaniel Benson. The note told her that he would be staying locked up with the Peale family until the fever had gone. She had not seen Nathaniel since then, and had worried about him. The morning that the market opened up she saw him. They talked for a while, and then started going on daily walks together.



Eliza suggests a Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate their health and hopefully the end of the epidemic. they invite Joseph and his sons along with Mother Smith and of course Nathaniel and Nell. The children churn butter to stay busy while Eliza and Mattie cook. At dinner Mattie announces she will be reopening the shop and asks Eliza to be her business partner.

Real historical events

Call in Dr. Rush


In the 1700s there were not many medicines or real medical treatments that were proven to work. Dr. Benjamin Rush was a very popular doctor among those who believed in his way of curing sickness. He would prescribe mercury, jalap, and calomel to make patients vomit. He also would bleed his patients to drain the "pestilence' from their systems. Although many believed this actually worked, in reality it killed more than it saved.

No compasion


Although it may seem hard to believe, during this time of great suffering families would turn away from their sick friends and relatives. Instead of a "get well soon" message or a meal sent to the family of a sick and/or dieing person people would literally throw their family member onto the street as soon as they found out they were sick.

First hot-air balloon to fly in the U.S.


Launched from Walnut Street Jail with French aeronaut, Jean Pierre Blanchard, inside, the yellow silk balloon floated 5,800 feet into the air. He performed many experiments while in the air such as: filling six bottle of air, taking his pulse and recording many observations about air pressure, temperature, and weather.

General George Washington


The epidemic hit during Washington's second term. He decided it best to leave the city because his wife did not want him around the horrible disease. Although he did not contract this disease, he did die six years later of a throat infection.