Sarah Albee’s POISON: A History of Horrifying Substances for Middle-Graders

Lynn: Author Sarah Albee makes it clear right at the beginning of Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions and Murderous Medicines (2017) that her book is NOT a how-to manual for murder! Rather, it’s a history with far more than murderous intentions. But what mystery fan doesn’t want the inside scoop on this crime-writer favorite method? Authors from Agatha Christie to Patricia Cornwell have utilized poison to bump off their fictional victims. Mystery readers everywhere need to be Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines by Sarah Albeearmed with the facts!

Albee works in plenty of history as she takes readers on a more or less chronological journey through what humans have done to each other and with what. She discusses poisons from ancient times like arsenic and hemlock, but Albee also tackles workplace toxins, environmental poisons, and the various other awful things modern people have used as make-up, medicines, remedies, and elixirs.

Nefarious poisoners make appearances in the text, but so does forensic science, food and drug regulations, and workplace safety laws. Albee provides plenty of stomach-churning examples of why regulations are so essential. Interspersed throughout are informational inserts like the Tox Box, discussing various poisons, the famous murder cases in Poisoned Or Not, and Drop-Dead-Gorgeous, in which Albee recounts the horrifying substances people have used as beauty aides.

Gleefully dark in tone with a plethora of wonderfully groan-worthy puns and word play, Albee’s book is perfect for middle-school readers who will delight in sharing its many grisly details. As befitting the subject, the book is appropriately disgusting in places, but provides outstanding information and history that be absorbed like cyanide. A timeline, glossary, source notes and an extensive bibliography round out this well-researched, well-written history. Hmm. . . does my tea smell like almonds to you?




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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