American Murderer

The Parasite that Haunted the South

Look inside
Hardcover
$24.99 US
8.38"W x 10.31"H x 0.67"D  
On sale Sep 27, 2022 | 160 Pages | 9781684378159
| Grades 5-12
Reading Level: Lexile 1080L | Fountas & Pinnell Z
Included on NPR's 2022 "Books We Love" List
Finalist, 2023 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction 
ALSC Notable Children's Book

What made workers in the American South so tired and feeble during the 19th and early 20th centuries? This exciting medical mystery uncovers the secrets of the parasite hookworm, commonly known as the “American Murderer,” and is the latest title in Gail Jarrow’s (YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award-winning author) Medical Fiascoes series.


Imagine microscopic worms living in the soil. They enter your body through your bare feet, travel to your intestines, and stay there for years sucking your blood like vampires. You feel exhausted. You get sick easily. It sounds like a nightmare, but that’s what happened in the American South during the 1800s and early 1900s.
 
Doctors never guessed that hookworms were making patients ill, but zoologist Charles Stiles knew better. Working with one of the first public health organizations, he and his colleagues treated the sick and showed Southerners how to protect themselves by wearing shoes and using outhouses so that the worms didn’t spread. Although hookworm was eventually controlled in the US, the parasite remains a serious health problem throughout the world. The topic of this STEM book remains relevant and will fascinate readers interested in medicine, science, history—and gross stories about bloodsucking creatures.
Gail Jarrow is the author of nonfiction books and novels for readers ages 8–18. Her nonfiction books have earned the Sibert Honor, the Orbis Pictus Honor, the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, YALSA Finalist, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Outstanding Science Trade Book, a NSTA Best STEM book, the Jefferson Cup Award, the Eureka! Gold Award, as well as Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and School Library Journal Best Books and VOYA Honor Book distinctions. You can find her at gailjarrow.com. View titles by Gail Jarrow
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 VAMPIRE 8
Chapter 2 WORM SCIENTIST 11 
Chapter 3 UNLOCKING SECRETS 21 
Chaoter 4 THE LAZINESS GERM 34 
ALL ABOUT HOOKWORMS 42 
Chapter 5 BATTLING NECATOR 46
Chapter 6 “SKIDOO, HOOKWORM” 59 
Chapter 7 HOOKWORM SOCIALS 72 
Chapter 8 THE PRIVY PROBLEM 90 
Chapter 9 A CURSE IS LIFTED 103 
Chapter 10 THE BLOODSUCKER LIVES ON 114 
TIMELINE 124 
GLOSSARY 128 
MORE TO EXPLORE 131 
AUTHOR’S NOTE 132
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 134 
SOURCE NOTES 136 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 142 
INDEX 149 
PICTURE CREDITS 152

CHAPTER ONE: VAMPIRE

“The disease . . . is primarily a ‘poor man’s’ malady.”
—Charles Stiles, American scientist

EARLY ONE MORNING IN NOVEMBER 1908, A TRAIN SLOWED down to pick up passengers at a southern railroad station. Peering through his railcar’s window, a traveler from Iowa pointed to a deathly pale, hunched-over figure standing on the station platform.

“What on earth is that?” he asked his two companions, wondering what could make a young man look so emaciated and broken down.

His friend, who had grown up in the South, explained that the man was probably one of the local tenant farmers.
The Iowan was shocked. He was used to the robust look of midwestern farmers.

“If he represents Southern farm labor the South is in poor luck,” he said.

The third traveler, a scientist, had seen many similar people. In fact, he had been studying them for several years, and he knew exactly what was wrong with the man on the platform. He informed his friends that they were looking at a victim of America’s bloodsucking murderer.

This vampire thrived in the warm southern climate. It lurked on the ground outside rural homes, schools, and churches. Invisible to its potential victims, it waited until one of them passed by. Undetected, it hitched a ride, burrowed in through the skin, and tricked the person’s body into allowing it to stay. The intruder hid deep in the host’s gut for years, anchored in place by sharp fang-like mouthparts.

Day by day, one drop at a time, the vampire devoured blood from its unsuspecting victim. At first the person suffered few ill effects. But when more invaders followed —and they usually did—his or her body became home to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of the tiny creatures.

Before long, the daily blood loss was enough to weaken and sicken the host. The person was transformed into a dull-witted, frail individual with a blank stare and shuffling gait—just like the man on the platform.

The scientist had learned many of the American Murderer’s secrets. He understood how it attacked the human body. He was aware of the damage it did. And he was convinced the vampire could be stopped—must be stopped!—from slowly sucking the life and energy out of millions of men, women, and children. He was determined to end this medical fiasco—one that most of America didn’t know existed.
  • FINALIST
    YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction
  • AWARD
    ALSC Notable Children's Books
  • AWARD
    California Reading Association Eureka! Silver Honor Book
  • AWARD
    Chicago Public Library Best Books
  • AWARD
    NSTA-CBC - Outstanding Science Trade Book
  • AWARD
    School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book
NSTA/CBC Best STEM Book
NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book
CCBC Choices 2023
Eureka! Nonfiction Silver Honor Award (California Reading Association)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
Evanston (IL) Public Library's 101 Great Books for Kids 2022
Texas Topaz Nonfiction Reading List


★ "Jarrow’s impeccable research and fascinating details will keep [readers] hooked, especially when they discover that this creature, known as Necator americanus—the American murderer—is a hookworm that once plagued the South...Numerous archival photos place readers in the time period, while a concluding chapter looks at ongoing parasitic-worm dangers across the globe...An engrossing blend of history and STEM." —Booklist, starred review

“Jarrow continues her 'Medical Fiascoes' series with this concise yet fascinating history of hookworm disease in the American South… with her usual flair, Jarrow highlights the science of hookworms, which has plenty of gross appeal to keep ­readers engaged.  An excellent addition for middle and high school students." —School Library Journal

"Jarrow’s coverage of the biological mystery is well-organized and deftly explained, and she also skillfully handles the social context of a condition that largely affected marginalized populations. Readers who wish to delve deeper into the topic are assisted by a glossary, bibliography and website list, source notes, timeline, index, and author’s note on research." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The title is a literal translation of the hookworm’s scientific name Necator americanus, but the lurid details don’t stop there as Jarrow goes on to expand...accounts of the creepy creature’s life cycle and the discovery of just how disturbingly prevalent 'America’s bloodsucking murderer' was in the South in the 19th and early 20th centuries... [A] searching look at the borders between science and society." —Kirkus Reviews

"Scientific and societal intersections are...explored in this introspective work, which features straightforward prose and informative sidebars detailing other historical Southern maladies and the scientists who studied them. Photographs, diagrams, and microscopic slides are included throughout; a timeline, glossary, and additional information conclude." —Publishers Weekly

"Jarrow...who has carved out a niche for herself in the history of science and medicine, here adeptly weaves solid research, primary-source quotes, and historical artifacts with elements of mystery for a compelling read." —The Horn Book




About

Included on NPR's 2022 "Books We Love" List
Finalist, 2023 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction 
ALSC Notable Children's Book

What made workers in the American South so tired and feeble during the 19th and early 20th centuries? This exciting medical mystery uncovers the secrets of the parasite hookworm, commonly known as the “American Murderer,” and is the latest title in Gail Jarrow’s (YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award-winning author) Medical Fiascoes series.


Imagine microscopic worms living in the soil. They enter your body through your bare feet, travel to your intestines, and stay there for years sucking your blood like vampires. You feel exhausted. You get sick easily. It sounds like a nightmare, but that’s what happened in the American South during the 1800s and early 1900s.
 
Doctors never guessed that hookworms were making patients ill, but zoologist Charles Stiles knew better. Working with one of the first public health organizations, he and his colleagues treated the sick and showed Southerners how to protect themselves by wearing shoes and using outhouses so that the worms didn’t spread. Although hookworm was eventually controlled in the US, the parasite remains a serious health problem throughout the world. The topic of this STEM book remains relevant and will fascinate readers interested in medicine, science, history—and gross stories about bloodsucking creatures.

Author

Gail Jarrow is the author of nonfiction books and novels for readers ages 8–18. Her nonfiction books have earned the Sibert Honor, the Orbis Pictus Honor, the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, YALSA Finalist, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Outstanding Science Trade Book, a NSTA Best STEM book, the Jefferson Cup Award, the Eureka! Gold Award, as well as Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and School Library Journal Best Books and VOYA Honor Book distinctions. You can find her at gailjarrow.com. View titles by Gail Jarrow

Excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 VAMPIRE 8
Chapter 2 WORM SCIENTIST 11 
Chapter 3 UNLOCKING SECRETS 21 
Chaoter 4 THE LAZINESS GERM 34 
ALL ABOUT HOOKWORMS 42 
Chapter 5 BATTLING NECATOR 46
Chapter 6 “SKIDOO, HOOKWORM” 59 
Chapter 7 HOOKWORM SOCIALS 72 
Chapter 8 THE PRIVY PROBLEM 90 
Chapter 9 A CURSE IS LIFTED 103 
Chapter 10 THE BLOODSUCKER LIVES ON 114 
TIMELINE 124 
GLOSSARY 128 
MORE TO EXPLORE 131 
AUTHOR’S NOTE 132
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 134 
SOURCE NOTES 136 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 142 
INDEX 149 
PICTURE CREDITS 152

CHAPTER ONE: VAMPIRE

“The disease . . . is primarily a ‘poor man’s’ malady.”
—Charles Stiles, American scientist

EARLY ONE MORNING IN NOVEMBER 1908, A TRAIN SLOWED down to pick up passengers at a southern railroad station. Peering through his railcar’s window, a traveler from Iowa pointed to a deathly pale, hunched-over figure standing on the station platform.

“What on earth is that?” he asked his two companions, wondering what could make a young man look so emaciated and broken down.

His friend, who had grown up in the South, explained that the man was probably one of the local tenant farmers.
The Iowan was shocked. He was used to the robust look of midwestern farmers.

“If he represents Southern farm labor the South is in poor luck,” he said.

The third traveler, a scientist, had seen many similar people. In fact, he had been studying them for several years, and he knew exactly what was wrong with the man on the platform. He informed his friends that they were looking at a victim of America’s bloodsucking murderer.

This vampire thrived in the warm southern climate. It lurked on the ground outside rural homes, schools, and churches. Invisible to its potential victims, it waited until one of them passed by. Undetected, it hitched a ride, burrowed in through the skin, and tricked the person’s body into allowing it to stay. The intruder hid deep in the host’s gut for years, anchored in place by sharp fang-like mouthparts.

Day by day, one drop at a time, the vampire devoured blood from its unsuspecting victim. At first the person suffered few ill effects. But when more invaders followed —and they usually did—his or her body became home to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of the tiny creatures.

Before long, the daily blood loss was enough to weaken and sicken the host. The person was transformed into a dull-witted, frail individual with a blank stare and shuffling gait—just like the man on the platform.

The scientist had learned many of the American Murderer’s secrets. He understood how it attacked the human body. He was aware of the damage it did. And he was convinced the vampire could be stopped—must be stopped!—from slowly sucking the life and energy out of millions of men, women, and children. He was determined to end this medical fiasco—one that most of America didn’t know existed.

Awards

  • FINALIST
    YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction
  • AWARD
    ALSC Notable Children's Books
  • AWARD
    California Reading Association Eureka! Silver Honor Book
  • AWARD
    Chicago Public Library Best Books
  • AWARD
    NSTA-CBC - Outstanding Science Trade Book
  • AWARD
    School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Praise

School Library Journal Best Book
NSTA/CBC Best STEM Book
NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book
CCBC Choices 2023
Eureka! Nonfiction Silver Honor Award (California Reading Association)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
Evanston (IL) Public Library's 101 Great Books for Kids 2022
Texas Topaz Nonfiction Reading List


★ "Jarrow’s impeccable research and fascinating details will keep [readers] hooked, especially when they discover that this creature, known as Necator americanus—the American murderer—is a hookworm that once plagued the South...Numerous archival photos place readers in the time period, while a concluding chapter looks at ongoing parasitic-worm dangers across the globe...An engrossing blend of history and STEM." —Booklist, starred review

“Jarrow continues her 'Medical Fiascoes' series with this concise yet fascinating history of hookworm disease in the American South… with her usual flair, Jarrow highlights the science of hookworms, which has plenty of gross appeal to keep ­readers engaged.  An excellent addition for middle and high school students." —School Library Journal

"Jarrow’s coverage of the biological mystery is well-organized and deftly explained, and she also skillfully handles the social context of a condition that largely affected marginalized populations. Readers who wish to delve deeper into the topic are assisted by a glossary, bibliography and website list, source notes, timeline, index, and author’s note on research." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The title is a literal translation of the hookworm’s scientific name Necator americanus, but the lurid details don’t stop there as Jarrow goes on to expand...accounts of the creepy creature’s life cycle and the discovery of just how disturbingly prevalent 'America’s bloodsucking murderer' was in the South in the 19th and early 20th centuries... [A] searching look at the borders between science and society." —Kirkus Reviews

"Scientific and societal intersections are...explored in this introspective work, which features straightforward prose and informative sidebars detailing other historical Southern maladies and the scientists who studied them. Photographs, diagrams, and microscopic slides are included throughout; a timeline, glossary, and additional information conclude." —Publishers Weekly

"Jarrow...who has carved out a niche for herself in the history of science and medicine, here adeptly weaves solid research, primary-source quotes, and historical artifacts with elements of mystery for a compelling read." —The Horn Book




The New York Times’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century

The New York Times recently published their list “100 Best Books of the 21st Century.” We are pleased to announce that there are 49 titles published from Penguin Random House and its distribution clients included in this list. Browse our collection of Penguin Random House titles here. Browse the full list from The New York

Read more

2024 Middle and High School Collections

The Penguin Random House Education Middle School and High School Digital Collections feature outstanding fiction and nonfiction from the children’s, adult, DK, and Grupo Editorial divisions, as well as publishers distributed by Penguin Random House. Peruse online or download these valuable resources to discover great books in specific topic areas such as: English Language Arts,

Read more

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

Read more

PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

Read more

PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

Read more

Congratulations to our 2023 ALA Award Winners & Honorees

The American Library Association (ALA) announced their 2023 literary award winners and honorees during LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience. Below you can find a selection of Penguin Random House titles that were among the winners.   Explore the collection of award winners and honorees here.   Alex Award Solito True Biz A Lady’s Guide to

Read more