Nonfiction Wednesday – Feb 10, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.


Title: Patient Zero: Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Epidemics
Author: Marilee Peters
Publisher: Annik Press
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction

My Two Cents: This is the second disease-related Red Cedar Award nominee I’ve shared as part of Nonfiction Wednesday, but while It’s Catching used humour and cartoony illustrations to teach kids about epidemiology, Patient Zero is an all together more serious tale for older readers.

Patient Zero focuses on several of history’s most terrifying outbreaks, including the Black Death, cholera, the Spanish Influenza, and AIDS. A blend of fictional and biographical anecdotes helps bring different periods in history to life, recounting the often harrowing experiences of those living during these outbreaks. This is definitely a text-heavy book, with the occasional illustration or graphic element thrown in to break up the text. Still, the text is so well-written and the stories are so gripping that the pages just seem to fly by. This is narrative nonfiction at its best – facts and figures presented in a way that reads like a thrilling adventure novel. Doctors and scientists become adventurers on the hunt for evidence and answers across the globe and throughout history, often in a desperate race against time. History and science, like all subjects, can indeed be boring – but in the hands of a skilled writer, these subjects can be as entertaining as any piece of fiction.

I also appreciate that the author has included a detailed table of contents, glossary, index, additional resources list and a comprehensive list of sources – perfect for introducing readers to scholarly research.

It’s also pretty cool that Patient Zero features Dr. Jennifer Gardy, author of It’s Catching! I’m always happy when kids are introduced to real-life scientists, and it’s particularly awesome that Dr. Gardy is Canadian.

A thrilling look at epidemics throughout history that reads like a great adventure novel, Patient Zero blends fact and fiction to create a truly winning nonfiction text for older children.