Monday, May 5, 2014

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson

He and his brother were on the run from a wicked stepfather.  He works the dirty river Thames "mudlarking": gathering what he can find to sell for a few coins.  His nickname is "Eel".

Random House Children's Books sent me a copy of this book for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

Eel is just barely hanging on by working three jobs.  It costs money for his brother to have a warm place to stay, food and schooling.  Eel can get by with what he gets fed on the job, but he has to keep his brother safe.

I've read of the cholera outbreak before in young adult books, but I really like the job Ms. Hopkinson did with her story.  Eel is working part-time for Dr. Snow.  When his friends fall sick, he wants Dr. Snow to look at them and heal them.  Unfortunately, you can't heal cholera, it just has to run its course and most people die.  But the doctor has an idea and wants Eel to help prove it.

Even today, people have trouble believing things they can't see.  If the water is clean and tastes good, surely it couldn't be carrying disease.  If they are to stop the well from being used, they will have to prove it's the source of infection.

As if Eel isn't busy enough doing the Doctor's chores, his old stepfather comes to town looking for him.  Then his girlfriend falls ill.  Eel is torn between his duties, but he comes through.

This is a fictional look at a deadly disease that took many victims in 1854.  It's eye opening and will make your child want to more about the time period and other historical events that happened then.  I'm sure your middle grader will be rooting for Eel, I was.

Happy reading.

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