Summary: Thirteen year-old Meredith is headed to Toronto to work as domestic servant after her father’s death leaves her family with a lot of debt. It’s 1918 and nearing the end of World War I when the Spanish Flu hits soon after Meredith starts working at the Watertons. One by one, those in charge of the household contract the deadly flu, and Meredith is left to take care of them all with minimal help from Dr. Waterton’s entitled daughter Margaret. Fighting to keep everyone alive will test them both but ultimately not everyone will survive.
Number of Pages: 256
Age Range: 12-14
Review: Pretending to be fifteen so she can work and send money home to her family to pay her father’s debts, Meredith ends up in Toronto in 1918, just before the Spanish Flu arrives. Used to doing household chores, Meredith suddenly finds herself playing nursemaid and cook after Mrs. Butters, the household’s actual cook, takes ill.
Struggling to care Mrs. Butters while Dr. Waterton spends day and night working at the hospital to help stem the epidemic, Meredith finds herself trying to save what seems like a sinking ship as Harry gets ill and then Parker and then Jack.
Even though Meredith is just thirteen, she manages while fighting exhaustion, caring for the family she has just become attached to with heart and determination. She’s a remarkable character who deals with frightening situations and sudden responsibility gracefully and with a level head.
Yesterday’s Dead is an eye-opening portrayal of an historical event that left many children in the role of caregiver, or worse, orphans, just as World War I was finally ending.
“The newspaper had been delivered to the gate. There it was again – the headline ‘Yesterday’s Dead’ – posted over a grim list of the names and address of the people in Toronto who’d died from the Spanish Flu the day before, the same way the paper listed the names of the soldiers who’d died overseas. It seemed to her that the Spanish Flue was like an invading army, leaving grief in its wake as it spewed casualties.” – Meredith from Yesterday’s Dead by Pat Bourke, page 211