Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review: The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson

The Great Trouble
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 10, 2013)

Description: Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a "mudlark," he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He's being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he's got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe. 

But even for Eel, things aren't so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the Great Trouble begins. Mr. Griggs, the tailor, is the first to get sick, and soon it's clear that the deadly cholera—the "blue death"—has come to Broad Street.

Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it's up to Eel and his best friend Florrie to gather evidence to prove Snow's theory before the entire neighborhood is wiped out.

Part medical mystery, part survival story, and part Dickensian adventure, Deborah Hopkinson's The Great Trouble is a celebration of a fascinating pioneer in public health and a gripping novel about the 1854 London cholera epidemic. 

My Thoughts: THE GREAT TROUBLE was a fascinating story about a cholera epidemic in London in 1854. The main character and narrator is a thirteen-year-old boy named Eel who is surviving by scavenging from the Thames River, caring for the animals in Dr. John Snow's menagerie, and running errands for a brewery. When he is wrongly accused of stealing at the brewery, he doesn't know what he is going to do. After all, the money he earns pays to keep his younger brother away from the step-father who wants to turn him into a beggar and a thief.

When Eel's friends start getting sick and dying, he goes to Dr. Snow to try to find help for them. Dr. Snow has the theory that cholera is caused by contaminated water rather than the miasma in the air which was the commonly held belief. He and Eel investigate the deaths in order to find evidence to convince the governors of the area to remove the handle from the water pump that Dr. Snow believes is contaminated. 

Watching the investigation and seeing what life was like for a poor boy in Victorian London made this a very interesting story to read. I especially liked the information at the back of the book which sorted out the fictional and historical characters and gave more information about the cholera epidemic and the disease itself.

I think that young scientists and lovers of historical fiction will enjoy this fast-paced and well-written story.

Favorite Quote:
I did feel sick to my stomach at first. And then I didn't. It wasn't that I got used to it, nothing like that. It was more that, sometime in the first hour of walking into those hot, shadowy rooms where death had been, I found a way to change my thinking around.Instead of looking with my eyes, I decided to see with my heart. I tried to remember that the corpses were just people. People like Mr. Griggs, or neighbors I might greet on the street.
The author sent me a finished copy for review. You can buy your copy here

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