book jacket
Disasters: Natural and Man-Made Catastrophes Through the Centuries by Brenda Guiberson

This book is sick! Disasters goes in-depth into catastrophes that you’ve probably already heard of. But it opened my eyes to details that aren’t revealed in you social studies or history books at school.

There are two super gross disasters covered in the book: smallpox and the flu pandemic of 1918. None of us have experienced smallpox, since the virus was eradicated in 1977 thanks to the invention of vaccines. Today, the virus only exists in the form of a few samples kept on lock down in three uber-guarded science labs. Since it’s just not around, I had no idea just how nasty smallpox is. It makes chicken pox look like a walk in the park! The photos in the book literally made me jump with disgust because the virus covers your whole body with thick scabs. Sometimes the scabs all fall off leaving you with deep scars, known as pox marks, but most of the time you just die. In the 1900s alone (and keep in mind there have been no cases since 1977) smallpox killed 300,000,000 people. Brutal.

One of the man-made disasters covered in the book happened just 70 miles from Pittsburgh – the Johnstown Flood of 1889. A flood, caused by a dam that took on too much water and broke, took out an entire city. It was like a tsunami hit – a wall of water came tearing through and no one knew it was coming. The faulty dam was meant to hold a 10 foot deep lake up in the mountains, but when the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club wanted a bigger lake for its robber baron wealthy members to fish in, they built up the lake to be 65 feet deep with no changes to the dam. Duh, ya think it’ll burst?

The awesome accounts of these disasters will have your jaw hanging. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Review by Annica, CLP-West End

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