Thursday, April 03, 2014

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

I really enjoyed this book. I knew nothing about John Snow and his discovery that cholera was a water-borne disease, and now I know a lot. The story is set in London in 1854, and the main character is an orphan boy named Eel who is struggling to survive and support his little brother. Eel learns that people in his neighborhood are dying from the deadly disease that they call the "blue death." The theory of the day is that the disease is caused by "miasma," which meant it was carried in the foul-smelling air of London. Eel runs to alert Dr. John Snow, hoping that he could help save a man who was dying of the disease. John Snow doesn't help the sick man, but he does tell Eel that he thinks the disease, called cholera, is spread through contaminated water from the nearby Broad Street Pump. Dr. Snow hires Eel to help him prove his theory by interviewing neighbors and mapping the spread of the disease. It was obvious that the author incorporated a lot of historical facts into the story, but it never overwhelmed the story for me. I enjoyed the story and what I learned from it. This would be a perfect tie-in for a middle school science class. Recommended for 4th-6th grade readers.

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