Monday, September 7, 2015

Middle Grade Biographies about Noah Webster and Mary Mallon

It seems that right now I'm in a phase of reading a great deal of history and science related books during my personal reading time. I'm sure the fact that we officially added American and World history into our "school" days has strengthened my appetite for them. I'm reading a great deal of those types of books to the boys. They actually LOVE history and science, which makes me happy! I hated it in school. Of course, I hated just about everything about school, period.

I've learned middle grade biographies/history books typically have enough information to satisfy me, at least for now, as I slowly educate my pitiful brain that is greatly lacking in history. Plus, they're cleaner, which is always nice. I've picked up a few middle grade biographies lately that I enjoyed.

Noah Webster: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef

This is a great book for middle grade readers, or even adults like me, that want to know more about Noah Webster, but don't want to read a huge biography. It not only covers the life of Noah Webster, but also many of the events going on around him during his life. Some might not like that, but I did! It gives the chance to see why certain choices were made.

At first, Noah comes off as a snobby know it all(at least a bit), but by the end, I couldn't help but like him. He loved children, and thought they deserved a well rounded education. What's not to like about that?! He was passionate about his ideas, and he seemed like a genuinely sweet man that had a mission to accomplish. He wanted to make learning the English language as painless as possible, attempting to make it less confusing. Many of his ideas stood the test of time, and we still use his changes now. Others, not so much. I've always thought that some of the words in the English language were spelled in ridiculous ways, and Noah thought so, too! (Is there anyone these days that doesn't think so, though?) ;)

Most people remember Noah Webster as the writer of Webster's Dictionary. There's more to him than just that, but it's not until the end of the book that we get a good look at his journey to its completion. It was a long journey, and one that required patience and persistence!

I enjoyed learning more about Noah Webster, even if I didn't agree with all his opinions. (No one will agree with someone else on everything, after all.) This is definitely a book that I'll keep on the shelf for my boys!


Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I was completely fascinated with this book! Before going into it, I had shamefully never heard of Mary Mallon, or don't remember it if I had. It turns out that quite a few books have been written about her, but I don't imagine that they all give her such a sympathetic viewpoint as this one. Bartoletti has a way with words that completely pulled me into the book. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from her!

In the back of the book, we get a timeline and photo album, along with pages and pages of notes concerning where information came from. Aside from Mary Mallon, there's plenty of other things within the book that can be topics of extra study, like the spreading of germs and the study of how it happens. Civil rights could definitely be explored with this case! There were plenty of other cases worse than Mary's that didn't get the treatment she did.

If you've never heard of "Typhoid Mary" or have only heard her story from a negative standpoint, I definitely recommend giving this book a try!


Do you have any middle grade history books/biographies to recommend?

At our last library visit, I grabbed To Be a Princess: The Fascinating Lives of Real Princesses, which I've enjoyed so far. I also grabbed Gwinna, which looks to possibly be a beautiful fairy tale type story. The other 9 books were dedicated to the boys' studies, with 1 pick for the movie, Paddington. ;)

*I was provided an ARC of both books through Amazon Vine, in exchange for my honest opinion, and taxation on the books. :P



  1. Welcome back to blogging!

    I hadn't heard of Mary either. I also like middle grade bios and such for history. I recently read Bugged: How Insects Changed History (or something like that). It was fascinating!

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  3. Both books sounds like ones I would enjoy reading. I've never heard of Mary, either.