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1793

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Laurie Halse (rhymes with "waltz") was born on October 23, 1961 in Potsdam, New York, to Methodist minister Frank A., Jr. and manager Joyce Holcomb Halse. The author says that she decided to become a writer in second grade. Her teacher taught the class how to write haiku. She enjoyed it a lot and hopes that every second grader will learn to write poetry. Halse soon started reading library books for hours. The magic of the elementary school library came alive in life. Heidi, one of Halse's favorite books, sparked her interest in foreign cultures.

Halse's creative thoughts began as a child.

For instance, Halse recalls trudging through the snow on her way to school. She imagined that she had changed into an enormous polar bear.

Writing also started as a little girl for Halse. She enjoyed watching her father write poetry and read the comics spread out on his office floor. She used her father's old typewriter for hours, writing newspaper columns, stories, and letters. Halse declares that the dictionary is her favorite book.

As a senior in high school, Halse visited Denmark as an American Field Service exchange student. She lived on a pig farm and learned to speak Danish. The author obtained an associate of arts degree in 1981 from Onandaga County Community College. She married Gregory H. Anderson, chief executive officer of Anderson Financial Systems, on June 19,1983. They raised two children: Stephanie and Meredith. The author earned a bachelor of science in Languages and Linguistics (B.S.L.L.) degree in 1984 from Georgetown University. Laurie Halse Anderson belongs to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Anderson organized the SCBWI's Fall Conference in Philadelphia from 1994 to 1996.

She decided to write Fever 1793 after reading a newspaper article in August of 1993 that explained the yellow fever epidemic that devastated Philadelphia 200 years earlier. The U.S. capital in 1793, Philadelphia served as the political and cultural hub of the nation. Anderson believed these ingredients would create a story with strong elements of conflict and a rich background.

She also suspected that stories written about this period were rare. Moreover, her upbringing near Philadelphia inspired her to begin research.

Researching the idea proved to be no simple task, however. It took two years.

Anderson read about the period's architecture, food, class structure, social roles of taverns and coffeehouses, education levels, gardening, religion, and politics. She visited museums and studied her findings.

She sought out eyewitness accounts of the epidemic. As she did her work, she began to develop the realistic characters of the era, like Mattie's critical mother.

Fever 1793 won several book awards, including The New York Public Library Best 2001 Books for the Teenage, 2001 Teacher's Choice; American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults; and the Junior Library Guild named it as a selection. It received a starred review from the Bank Street College of Education as one of "The Best Children's Books of 2001."

Anderson believes that the world holds an abundance of goodness. She hopes that her books contribute goodness. She thinks that being an author has been an privilege.

Anderson enjoys travel, reading, history, genealogy, running, skiing, hiking, and basketball.

Overview

Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers published Anderson's novel Fever 1793 in 2000, an historical novel set in Philadelphia during the post-Revolutionary War.

Readers encounter the harrowing experience of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic.

Anderson gives insight into this deadly disease that killed nearly five thousand people, ten percent of the Philadelphia population, and halted its prosperity. The story uses real-life recollections to develop the bitterness and fear of neighbor toward neighbor as people physically cast aside the infected and buried thousands.

The novel begins by showing the normal, everyday conflicts teenagers face in dealing with strict parents, changing body images, and the death of friends. It then weaves a realistic tale of the losses that occurred as it conveys to young adults a message of hope. Readers realize that, through perseverance and self-reliance, any horror can be faced.

Setting

The significant events occur within a four-month period during which the characters of this once-thriving town are changed forever. The story begins with Mattie waking to a mosquito whining in one ear and her mother hollering in the other.

Mattie lives in a room above the family coffeehouse. It is August and the relentless heat pours into the modest bedchamber.

Struggling to awaken to begin her chores, Mattie typifies the life of a teen. She struggles with her desire to do the right thing and her need to have some fun. She finds her mother annoying and dreams of the day when she can slip free of family restrictions. Mattie thinks of her friend, Nathaniel Benson, who understands her dreams.

Anderson effectively puts readers in the hubbub of the nation's capital, Philadelphia. She describes the hustle and bustle of the city, with its horsemen, carriages, and carts. A neighbor gossips as a dog barks at a pig running loose in the street. A blacksmith's hammer hits his anvil.

The author sets the topography and political climate. From Mattie's coffeehouse, she can see the rooftop of the State House where the Congress met. The coffeehouse sits two blocks away from President Washington's house. Politicians, as well as merchants and gentlemen, enjoy cups of coffee, a bite to eat, and the daily news. On a clear day, Mattie can see the masts of the ships anchored at the docks of the Delaware River.

These historical and geographical details place the readers in the era quickly and effectively.

Anderson uses unique events to substantiate her historical depiction. She refers to Blanchard's yellow hot air balloon that rose over Philadelphia in January of 1793.

She incorporates the work of the African Free Society and its heroic members. She bases Mattie's adventures on the real-life events of yellow fever with credible symptoms, treatments, and attitudes.

The author shows the compassionate and honest nature of teenagers. She portrays Mattie like an authentic teen--trying new ideas, new personalities, and new dreams.

Anderson seems to view the world as if she

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