Some writers can write through anything – surgeries, illness, death. It’s their way of coping and expressing their feelings. I’ve never been one of those writers. Even if I’m just having a bad hair day, my writing usually comes to a halt.
But I do have a blog to write. So, I’m making an exception. Besides, I suspect that if I ever need to write a miserable book, perhaps one similar to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, that my recent experience of three days in ICR and 6 in hospital could play a role.
When one of the fourteen doctors who saw me asked, “How did you ever get scarlet fever? It’s a children’s disease,” I didn’t miss a beat. “It makes perfect sense,” I responded, “I write books for children.”
Later, I recalled that scarlet fever provided plot twists, helped with character development, and allowed epiphanies, caring, tragedies, and triumphs to be expressed in some classic children’s literature.
The reader can often guess when a story was written or set by the illnesses found in the text. Scarlet fever is most often thought of as a disease of the 1800’s or the early 20th century. Indeed, in the mid-1800’s it was one of the most fatal infectious diseases among children. Strange that something so deadly has such romantic sounding names: scarlet fever or scarlatina.
All-of-a-Kind Family was published in 1951, but took readers back to the 1910s, before World War I. The story of five young sisters covers trials from missing library books to scarlet fever. In those days there weren’t antibiotics, like the ones they pumped into me, and the children were placed in quarantine for weeks.
One of the most beloved children’s books of all time, The Velveteen Rabbit, also features a main character with scarlet fever. After the boy recovers, the doctor orders, “Why, it's a mass of scarlet fever germs! Burn it at once.” Poor Velveteen Rabbit. Fortunately, the toy rabbit was left in a sack in the garden and not burned straight away. He's found by a fairy who turns him into a real rabbit, because he truly is “real.”
Then there was sweet Beth March from Little Women who contracted scarlet fever during her caring for the Hummels, a poor German immigrant family. Although Beth recovers from the illness, she grows weaker and weaker and eventually dies. Sadly, scarlet fever can lead to many complications, including rheumatic fever, infection, and liver and kidney damage. The novel expresses Beth’s character of goodness and provides a tragedy for the story. Her death also changes Jo, who resolves to care more for others.
In the fifth book of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, By The Shores of Silver Lake, set in 1879, the whole family comes down with scarlet fever. And even American Girl’s independent and spunky Kit Kittredge could not escape the disease. In Kit Uses Her Head, both Kit and her best friends Ruthie and Stirling had scarlet fever.
One of my friends shared that her father had scarlet fever as a child and was kept in isolation for six weeks. The solitude for him was both a traumatizing time as well as enriching. It would certainly allow for introspection.
Some of the scarlet fever stories have sad endings, others happier. My own story has me recovering with the help of some healing springs water. On our way back to Florida from North Carolina, I coerced my husband into taking a detour to Blackville, South Carolina, where God’s Acre Healing Springs is found. The area reminded me of what the spring in Tuck Everlasting may have looked like.
And so again, my life is intertwined with children’s literature, as in truth, all our lives are. Write well, write wisely, dear writers.
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
Join our Tribe
and receive 7 Steps to Creative Happiness, access to free webinars, and lots more!
Your email addresses are always safe and respected with us.
Follow our Blog!