Coming of Age in the Time of Infectious Disease

On Tuesday, a charming article was posted on the Discover: Science for the Curious blog titled “Classic Children’s Books Would Be Ruined by Modern Medicine.” In the piece, Elizabeth Preston looks at how diseases from the past century formed many of the plot lines of perpetual favorites.

Scarlet fever plays a roll in The Velveteen RabbitLittle Women, and the Little House on the Prairie series. (In the story it’s what caused Mary’s blindness, although in reality it was caused by viral meningoencephalitis.) Frances Hodgson Burnett used cholera and malaria, respectively, to form the backdrop of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. And Tiny Tim from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Story? He more than likely had a combination of rickets and tuberculosis. All of these ailments led Preston to wonder: are children who read the classics at all confused?

How many days home from school does it take before someone sends you to the seaside to recover?

I found the article completely readable, so very interesting, and as I mentioned above, oddly charming. (I had a similar reaction to Heavy Words Lightly Thrown by Chris Roberts.) You should give it a shot. If you like it, I’ve created an instant tweetable for you to send to your own followers.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay