CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 38. . . .May 31, 2013
Plague, a high interest title designed for reluctant readers, is from Crabtree's "Chrome" series. It is written for students who are reading at a beginning to middle grade two levels (levels L & M). Each title in the series is colourfully illustrated and contains captions of important and interesting facts, a bibliography, glossary and index.
Plague, which is surprisingly detailed and fact-filled, is an excellent introductory history for all ranges of students. It begins with the story of the "Black Death" coming to the city of London in 1347 and how, over the course the Middle Ages, tens of millions of people, approximately half of Europe's population died from plague. The story moves on to explain how the incurable plague was spread from rats to fleas to humans and that it could take three deadly forms: septicaemia, pneumonic and, most commonly, bubonic.
Various killing plagues have cursed mankind for ages as people developed ways to travel longer distances in the quest for land, wealth and trade. The natural boundaries of oceans, mountains and rivers were no longer barriers to the spread of disease. As life became more cosmopolitan and urbanized in the Middle Ages, conditions were rife for the spread of plague. Cities were dirty, filthy and congested places.
Without any knowledge of germ theory, people believed plague was sent by God as punishment for their sins. This led to religious persecution and the rise of radical religious sects, such as the flagellants, whose practices were often condemned by the established Catholic church. Students learn that people sought out all kinds of cures for the plague, but, of course, none were effective.
The world changed because of the return of the Black Death to Europe over successive centuries. Survivors made more money as there were fewer people to work in the fields or as shopkeepers. Advances were made in medicine and hospitals were established.
Today's modern medicine has found a cure for plague, but it remains a threat as outbreaks still occur around the world and health officials remain vigilant.
Ian Stewart is a Reading Recovery teacher at Cecil Rhodes School in Winnipeg, MB.
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