Code Orange

Code OrangeCode Orange by Caroline B. Cooney
Paperback, 224 pages

Mitty Blake is a master procrastinator. Mitty Blake would rather walk around New York City watching people than doing just about anything else. Like homework. It’s because of his procrastination that he stumbles upon two scabs from 1902 from someone who may have had Smallpox, a virus thought to be extinct. He figures this will be perfect for his science project. But after he handles the scabs, crumbling one and breathing in the dust, the fear that he may, in fact, contract smallpox sets in.

I like books that integrate scientific concepts, so I love books like Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Gardener by S. A. Bodeen. I’d heard of Caroline B. Cooney before but never read anything by her until the middle school I attended in the XXs, Westlane, was in the news for breaking down walls of the classroom. A science teacher engaged his students in science through novels like Code Orange and non-fiction like the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I’ll admit that I felt a huge surge of pride for having once been part of that program (and being the science lover who did Learning Under the Sun every summer for two more whole weeks of science fun). So when I ran across Code Orange in the bookstore the other night, I couldn’t pass it up.

As a middle school teacher, and a procrastinator myself, I can sympathize with Mitty. However, his choice to go to the Internet instead of the doctor when trying to find out whether or not he’d contracted Smallpox, I think was ill informed. Perhaps that’s wisdom of the aged coming out there. I enjoyed the novel for the most part, though I thought that Mitty being picked up by potential terrorists was a little fantastic. But then again, I’ve never been to New York City. It may be just the right amount of fantastic. Either way, I can see how this, in conjunction with the other books read by Westlane students, could inspire an interest in science.

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