Hayles, Marsha. 2012. BREATHING ROOM. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 9780805089615 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-8]
This moving novel describes the journey of thirteen year old Evvy as she arrives at Loon Lake Sanatorium in search of a cure for tuberculosis. Life in the quiet sanatorium is often rigid, as the team of doctors and nurses try to cure their patients through enforced rest and uncomfortable breathing treatments. As Evvy adjusts to life without her family, she begins to make friends with the other girls in her ward. Even as the patients long to be cured and regain their normal lives, the girls are aware of the seriousness of their disease. The love and support the teens share during long hours of confinement bolster their spirits and give them hope.
Hayles’ novel documents the fight to cure tuberculosis during the 1940s, a decade before antibiotics offered much improved survival rates. Authentic period public health announcements, medical advertisements, and photographs are included with each chapter. These primary sources lend a nice touch to the storyline with their warnings concerning effective prevention and advice for treatment. Evvy’s medical records, diary entries, and letters personalize the struggle and uncertainty of young patients living with a deadly disease.
Pair this book with non-fiction titles when discussing public health and communicable diseases. Evvy’s battle enhances medical studies with a personal story. Compare our country’s past struggle with tuberculosis with searches for cures to diseases plaguing society today.
Other books featuring children and teens fighting tuberculosis:
Brooks, Martha. QUEEN OF HEARTS. ISBN 9780374342296
Murphy, Jim and Alison Blank. INVINCIBLE MICROBE: TUBERCULOSIS AND THE NEVER-ENDING SEARCH FOR A CURE. ISBN 9780618535743
By Kimberly C. Kinnaird