From New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson comes an eerily timely historical fiction middle grade adventure about a girl struggling to survive amid a smallpox epidemic, the public’s fear of vaccines, and the seething Revolutionary War.
In the spring of 1776, thirteen-year-old Elspeth Culpepper wakes to the sound of cannons. It’s the Siege of Boston, the Patriots’ massive drive to push the Loyalists out that turns the city into a chaotic war zone. Elspeth’s father—her only living relative—has gone missing, leaving her alone and adrift in a broken town while desperately seeking employment to avoid the orphanage.
Just when things couldn’t feel worse, the smallpox epidemic sweeps across Boston. Now, Bostonians must fight for their lives against an invisible enemy in addition to the visible one. While a vaccine is being frantically fine-tuned, thousands of people rush in from the countryside begging for inoculation. At the same time, others refuse protection, for the vaccine is crude at best and at times more dangerous than the disease itself.
Elspeth, who had smallpox as a small child and is now immune, finds work taking care of Abigail Adams and her extended family as they await a turn at inoculation, but as the epidemic and the revolution rage on, will she find her father?
Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity. She’s twice been a National Book Award finalist, for Chains and Speak; Chains also received the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Laurie was chosen for the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award and received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2023, presented to her by the Crown Princess of Sweden. She lives in Pennsylvania, and you can follow her adventures on Twitter @HalseAnderson or visit her at MadWomanintheForest.com.