Author: Julie Chibbaro
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Concepts: incentives, jobs, discrimination, immigration
Review: Already sixteen, Prudence Galewski felt ready to find a job, particularly because she got so little out of attending Mrs. Browning's School for Girls, the vocational school in which her mother had placed her. Prudence's mother worked as a midwife and thought that this school would provide her daughter with opportunities that went far beyond the physically and emotionally demanding work of midwifery.
Although Prudence appreciated her mother's good intentions, she had little desire to become a secretary or bookkeeper or governess, the types of jobs that the school's graduates typically held. She enjoyed science and had a deeply inquisitive mind, so when she heard about a government job at the Department of Health and Sanitation, she jumped at the chance. It did not take long before Prudence was at the heart of a typhoid investigation involving a suspected healthy carrier who was unknowingly spreading the disease. While the chance to obtain further training in the medical field thrilled Prudence, she became increasingly uncomfortable with some of the moral dilemmas that this work involved.
Set at the turn of the twentieth century and based on real historical events, this novel provides a compelling look at discriminatory attitudes toward women in schools and the workplace. With its focus on a typhoid carrier who was both an immigrant and working class, the book also touches upon the difficulties in enforcing health standards at a time when working class immigrants had few rights and protested vehemently against perceived mistreatment. The unique topic is bound to appeal to those who appreciate a good read in historical fiction.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children