Library Favorites: I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures
Hello everyone and happy fall! This month’s pick is a fun one! Carlyn Beccia’s I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History’s Strangest Cures is great for the inevitable back-to-school sniffles and the upcoming spooky season. As the name implies, the book goes through a number of common ailments: colds, coughs, fevers, etc. and gives the reader information on remedies used throughout history to cure them. This is not just a dry medical information text, though. Kids of all ages will love this one!
Beccia created a fun narrative structure that engages her readers from the first page. She opens with instructions letting readers know that the book is kind of gross, not to test any of the remedies themselves (or on anyone else), and that it’s the reader’s job to see if they can guess which cures actually worked and which ones didn’t. After all, that’s what doctors had to do! The intro includes a table of contents, so if your child wants to know about a specific ailment (if they themselves have a sore throat, for example) they can turn right to it. As a librarian, I always appreciate child-friendly additions like this. A table of contents, index, glossary, bibliography (which this book also has), etc. are great ways to introduce children to finding information they need quickly and easily, while also helping build their information literacy skills.
The rest of the book is a quiz format. Beccia gives readers the complaint and three common remedies along with their origin and asks the question “Did any of these cures help?” It’s extra fun that she chose fonts and backgrounds that have the feel of a medieval manuscript, so the reader feels like they’re looking at an older text full of hidden knowledge. Each common cure is given a page with more information and a mildly upsetting illustration. The illustrations aren’t gory or horrific. I’d say that young children can look at them without nightmares, but, you know, a necklace of wriggly earthworms isn’t supposed to be all that pleasant (and it also won’t cure your sore throat). The “worst” one is probably the image of a doctor looking after a patient he’s just bled to cure a fever. Nothing worse than you’d see in any Renaissance art. Beccia isn’t kidding when she tells the reader not to eat while reading this one! I got mildly nauseated, but I think that’s because, as an adult, I’m more able to picture what these cures would have actually done. A child probably won’t really know what maggots in a wound would look like, and the ones in the book are almost, sort of, cute? (That one, by the way, does work!) Also, kids tend to like “gross” stuff, so this is a great way to scratch that itch while providing actual historical information. If your child is super-squeamish, though, this may be one to skip.
The youngest children probably won’t fully understand the content, but K+ will love it. I would say you can read it to 3-4 year olds; they just won’t be able to grasp it all without you explaining a few things (like how germs spread, why protein is good for you, etc.). You can turn it into a guessing game, read it when your little one is sick (“Aren’t you so glad to take your medicine and not have to eat frog soup?”), or as part of a Halloween theme.
Reading this definitely taught me some new information, and I had fun learning it. I think any children in your life will enjoy it too. I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat is pretty available. Prince George’s County Library doesn’t seem to have it, but DCPL has three copies in the general collection along with one in Braille, and you can always get it online. If you use Amazon, please remember to use Amazon Smile and make the Accokeek Foundation your non-profit of choice. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next month!