By Caroline B. Cooney
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)
Last Updated: January 15, 2008