38. The Giant and How He Humbugged America, by Jim Murphy. Murphy relates the story of the Cardiff Giant, an elaborate hoax concocted in 1869, when a 10-foot statue of a man was buried in a farmer's field, then 'discovered.' The discovery and the stories that spread took on a life of their own, as people paid to see this petrified Goliath. Murphy also goes into other famous hoaxes. This is a great book, filled with fascinating information, comparisons and pictures. The only thing I would have liked to have seen added -and this is minor - Murphy does some price comparisons between costs then and costs now, but I would have liked to have seen pointed out that the admission price to see the Giant (I think it was 50 cents but I don't have the book with me) would have been a LOT of money back then for your average worker. I remember from watching vintage base ball that in the 1880s, 25 cents was the average day's wages for a laborer. I recommend this for older grade school, or anyone with an interest in the odd side of history.
39. Pandemonium, by Chris Wooding. This was a fun graphic novel, I hope there will be more. The story concentrates on Seifer, a star athlete in skullball in his tiny, provincial town. Seifer dreams of one day exploring the world outside his village. One day, his dream comes true. Sort of. Actually, he's kidnapped, dragged to a distant castle and told that he must impersonate the prince, who has gone missing, in order to keep some semblance of peace and order in the land. So Seifer now has to lead an army, deal with a sister, handle a fiance and convince the people that he is, indeed, the prince, all the while trying to avoid the various attempts on his life. No easy task. The results are hilarious (I laughed out loud several times, especially with the cat). I'm very curious as to where this story will go.
40. Fever Season, by Jeanette Keith. Keith recounts the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic, which devastated Memphis. Indeed, it was almost the last straw for the beleaguered cit, which was already mired in debt and disorganization before the outbreak. She goes into a bit of the history of the time, the impact of the Civil war, the reverberations of which were still being felt, the lack of knowledge about the disease, and the people who kept the city going. Keith does a commendable job not only with the history and facts, but with the people of the time. There are several people who figured prominently, and they are not whitewashed but presented for whom they were- complications, warts, strengths and all. The book also goes into the aftermath of the outbreak, and how it changed the city.
One interesting- and tragic note- brought up was the effect of Jim Crow after the outbreak. Black residents who were lauded for their efforts during the Yellow Fever epidemic were shunted aside and forgotten as "separate but equal" became the order of the day. I also found it ironic that the people who fled the epidemic- often because they were told to in an effort to reduce the impact, were treated like traitors when they did return. In the early days of the outbreak, people had been encouraged to leave to "reduce the human fuel" needed by the disease. While the reasoning was wrong the idea was probably the right one. Also, the slew of non-immune people who came to aid the suffering I have to wonder (hindsight being 20/20) if they merely swelled the ranks of the dead, doing more harm than good ultimately. In all, more than 5,000 people are estimated to have died. I recommend this for history buffs.
41. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I admit I'm not a huge Jane Austen fan, but I found myself enjoying this book. The movie adaptations stay pretty true to it, but it had been a while since I'd seen them, so there were a few things I had forgotten. In the book, the Bennett family, which includes the long-suffering father, the flighty mother and five daughters. The story concentrates mostly on the intelligent and principled Elizabeth and her older sister, the saintly Jane, as their mother tries to find marriage prospects for her girls. Throughout, Austen includes many sly asides and digs at the hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies of the time.