The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson
Rating: 4 out of 5 Magical Coffee Cups
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 deadly cholera (“blue death”) comes 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 Dr. Snow’s theory—before the entire neighborhood is wiped out.
Book two in my Caudill Nominee list
I loved the history in this book. I have always been a fan of historical fiction. The closer to the actual events the happier I am. This book even had a little historical section in the back with information on what was true and what was fictional, I like having that knowledge presented to me so I don’t have to wonder what was real and what was embellished. I think these types of novels are an enjoyable way to introduce someone or yourself to a certain subject.
So this book was sort of a historical medical mystery. Eel, as he is called, has been working as a “mudlark”, an errand boy, sweeper, animal feeder, and any other random job he can find to ear money for himself and for a secret that is discovered pretty early on in the book. He is also on the run from Fisheye. We don’t know why and throughout the book we are given little crumbs of information as to why this man would want Eel. As this is all going on people start to fall sick and Eel is desperate to help his friends and employers.
As I said, I do love historical fiction but I am not a fan of gross. I was a little worried that I would have to set this book aside because of the talk of germs and sickness. There was a little talk of the symptoms of cholera (and yes it is gross but if I can get through it so can you), but more of a focus on the research involved in trying to pinpoint the cause of the sickness.
So, you have the mystery of Eel’s secret, the mystery of Fisheye, and then you have the medical mystery of the blue death. I found myself wanting to know about everything as I read this book. Those little crumbs of information laid out in this book kept me focused. You can guess how this book is going to end but it was still engrossing and I think this would be an interesting and enjoyable read for middle grade. I thought that it came together nicely and kind of funny as well in the end. There is a meeting towards the end of the book that is reminiscent of a sitcom.
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