Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Cooney, Caroline B.
New York : Delacorte, 2005.
ISBN 0385902778

(8 booktalks)

Click on the book to read Amazon reviews
Booktalk #1

Mitty plans to be a rock concert reviewer so he really sees no use for the classes he is forced to take at school.  Especially Advance Biology. When he is told that he had better do well on his project or be moved to another bio class, you'd think he would be happy.  And he might have been if this hadn't been the only class he had with Olivia.  At the family's country home, Mitty realizes that he has forgotten to get any books for his project and now is stuck with no book store and no library around.  Fortunately, his mother has just received a collection of books that she will use to decorate some house but there are books that used to belong to a doctor.  There must be something in there that Mitty can use.  And sure enough, he finds so old medical books.  In one of the books is an envelop that holds two scabs from an outbreak in 1902.  After Mitty handles the scabs, he begins to think they might still be contagious.  And after a little research, Mitty realizes he is dealing with smallpox.  Will Mitty be responsible for bringing back a disease thought eradicated?

Booktalk #2

Mitty is just about prides himself in doing as little school work as he can.  When his advanced biology teacher assigns a paper on an infectious disease, Mitty plans to just blow it off til the last minute and then just copy something off the Internet.  But then he learns that if he doesn't do well on this paper, he was going to be moved to the regular biology class.  That in itself is not a bad thing but this is the only class he has with Olivia.  So, the night before the first notes are due, Mitty realizes that he is stuck in the family's country home with no bookstores or libraries nearby.  Well, maybe there is something in the collection of books his mother just purchased from an estate.  After all, the man who had owned the books was a doctor.  And sure enough, Mitty finds several books on infectious diseases.  And he might have found more than he bargained for.  In one of the books is an envelop containing scabs from the 1902 outbreak of smallpox.  After handling the scabs, Mitty starts to wonder if they could still be contagious.  They couldn't be.  Could they?

Booktalk #3

Meet Mitty, underachieving high school student at the elite St. Raphael's prep school in New York. He's a nice guy but really prefers just about anything to school work. When the biology research project on infectious diseases was assigned, Mitty was seriously listening to his music and not calendaring the various due dates. Now the preliminary research is due and Mitty is scrambling around for book references until he remembers those antique books his mother, an interior decorator, uses in her clients' homes.

While flipping through the one about contagious diseases, a mysterious envelope slips out with a notation on it: "VM scabs, 1902, Boston."  Mitty reads the article about smallpox and examines the contents of the envelope. It disintegrates his hand and the dust flies up in his face. VM means variola major which is smallpox! A deadly disease no longer immunized against because it's extinct -- except in bioterrorism labs. There is no cure; most people who contract it die a horrible death while the few survivors are left with deep pitted scars.

Has Mitty been exposed to smallpox? Is he now developing symptoms? Has he spread it to his friends, his unsuspecting parents, and all the people he's come in contact with at school, in the New York subways?

Read on and find out…
about smallpox,
research projects, friends,
romance with the super-smart and beautiful Olivia,
the Internet, the FBI and terrorists,
getting along with your parents and taking responsibility for your life.  (Linda Rogde, Secondary Media Center, Seoul Foreign School, Seoul, S. Korea)

Booktalk #4

Smallpox is a disease that isn't around anymore. Doctors and scientists eliminated it from the face of the earth. But before that, it was like chickenpox, every kid got it at some point. But unlike chickenpox, it could kill you. It killed a lot of kids. And if it didn't kill you, you would have deep scars all over for the rest of your life.

Mitty doesn't know any of this when he picks smallpox for his research project. Mitty is the kind of guy who likes to wait for the last minute to do his homework. The kind of guy who will pick up a book at the library the night before a paper is due, read it that night, and write the report on the way in to school in the morning.

But before the assignment is due, his family goes to their vacation house for the weekend. Mitty can't go to the library. So he goes through the boxes of antique books in the vacation house garage. He finds a 100 year old medical book. Well, maybe he won't get a great grade, but he won't flunk. When he looks up smallpox, out falls an old, yellowed envelope. Inside the envelope is some brown crumbly stuff. Mitty sneezes as it tumbles into his hand.

He's found 100 year old smallpox scabs, the most infectious part of a person with smallpox. Mitty has become a biological time bomb. It's time to get scared.

(Booktalk by Sarah Hunt, King County Library System for the Evergreen Young Adult Book award, 2007-2008)

Booktalk #5

Mitty Blake is a mediocre, but happy-go-lucky student at his private high school in NYC. When faced with being removed for poor grades from his Advanced Biology class, where the (brilliant) girl of his dreams is, he decides to buckle down and tackle the research project he has been putting off. Smallpox…who ever heard of smallpox? His initial search for facts leads him to an antique leather-bound medical book that his mother intends to use as an interior design accent, but Mitty finds some useful information within it. He also finds an envelope containing scabs from a smallpox outbreak in 1902. The more he and his girlfriend, Olivia, learn about “his” disease, the more he fears he may be responsible for reintroducing it back into society. This biological thriller is impossible to put down!  (Prepared by: Leah Roche, Beaufort High School for SCASL Young Adult Awards, 2008)

Booktalk #6

Do you know what variola major is? Ever heard of smallpox? It’s an awful disease that begins with a high fever, followed by small red bumps which come out all over the mouth and tongue, spread to the face and then all over the body. The bumps fill with pus and get a little indentation in the center of them, like a bellybutton. That’s the distinguishing feature of smallpox. In time, scabs form over the bumps. The scabs eventually fall off, leaving the victim, if he or she survives, horribly disfigured. Would you mess around with a highly contagious, deadly disease like that?

The main character in Code Orange is NYC teenager, Mitchell Blake, Mitty. He has an infectious disease report due for his advanced bio class and he’s a real procrastinator. Mitty has spent more time flirting with Olivia, than doing research. He’s in a pinch when he discovers an old medical book with an envelope containing smallpox scabs inside. It seems like the answer to his problem, but in fact, it’s only the beginning. Once Mitty realizes the seriousness of handling the scabs he has to determine if he’s contagious. He goes on the Internet to learn more about the disease and inadvertently advertises his situation to a terrorist group. This story is a ‘ripped from the headlines’ type of thriller. In post 9-11 America, it’s utterly terrifying to consider the consequences of bio-terrorism. Code Orange by Caroline Cooney will keep you on the edge of your seat!  (Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards nominee, 2008-2009)

Booktalk #7

Do you have smallpox?           Mitty Blake is your average American teenage boy living in New York City in present day time. In his Advanced Placement Biology class he's taking, only because his crush Olivia is, he learns that if he doesn't get an A on his next paper he will fail the class and lose his chance with Olivia. When his teacher tells him he has to write a paper on an infectious disease, he realizes he might actually fail the class until he gets home and he looks in his family's personal library and finds a book called Scabs—VM epidemic 1902 Boston. Alas, when he opens the book he finds two scabs inside from 1902, which to his misfortune are some of the only Variola  Major  scabs (a leading cause to smallpox) left in the country. On his quest to find out if he contracted the disease he sent an e-mail to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to warn them that he may have small pox and needs the cure, he accidentally alerts a terrorist group who want to use him as a human biological weapon. So if you need to do a report on a infectious disease PLEASE do not read Scabs—VM epidemic 1902 Boston and open the little white envelope and if you do PLEASE don't tell  the FBI. Read Code Orange to find out if Mitty can stop the terrorist attack before it starts!  (Lydia, student)

Booktalk #8

What if you found out that you might be a walking biological weapon of mass destruction? Mitty Blake has discovered that he has handled 100-year-old scabs from variola major, also known as smallpox. At first he doesn’t think it is very important. He found them in some old book his mother was going to use for her interior decoration business. But as Mitty does more research he discovers that smallpox could have a devastating effect on the population-no one has been vaccinated in several decades and those scabs might have a shelf life. Time is running out.  (Melissa Bowman,, Armstrong Middle School,  Lone Star Book Award nominee, 2006-2007)

SUBJECTS:     Smallpox -- Fiction.
                        Diseases -- Fiction.
                        Schools -- Fiction.
                        High schools -- Fiction.
                        New York (N.Y.) -- Fiction.


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