November 17, 2017

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Pick of the Day: The Great Trouble

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child's profile against a blue backgroundHOPKINSON, Deborah. The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel. 256p. Knopf. Oct. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84818-6; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94818-3; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-449-81819-0. LC 2012032799.
Gr 5-8
–This story of the 1854 cholera outbreak in London is told through the eyes of  a 13-year-old orphan. Among other jobs, Eel works as an errand boy at the Lion Brewery, cares for Dr. John Snow’s animals, and moonlights as a “mudlark,” scavenging the Thames for scraps of coal and other things to sell. Eel struggles to survive as he is falsely accused of stealing by his boss at the brewery, tries to stay clear of his evil stepfather, and watches his neighbors fall ill and die. In desperation, he turns to the only man he knows who can help: Dr. Snow. Weaving historical personages such as Dr. Snow and the Reverend Henry Whitehead with fictional characters, Hopkinson illuminates a pivotal chapter in the history of public health. Dr. Snow believed that cholera was spread by contaminated water, not by bad air or “miasma,” which was the popular theory at the time. With the help of Eel and his friends, he convinces an emergency committee that the water from the Broad Street pump is responsible and has the handle removed, thereby curtailing the outbreak. Although detailing a dire period in history, Eel tells his story in a matter-of-fact and accessible manner, making his story palatable and entertaining.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY

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