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The Great Trouble Library Binding – 10 Sep 2013

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.5 stars for meaty, medical adventure 14 Jun. 2014
By Maggie Knapp - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Eel is a mudlark in mid-1800s London -- making a bit of coin by trolling for discarded coal and metal on the banks of the Thames. Like a character out of a Dickens' novel, he's had a hard-luck life, and keeps a secret close to his very-good heart. Adults familiar with Steven Johnson's THE GHOST MAP (credited in the back matter of Hopkinson's book) will recognize the names and pump locations in Eel's neighborhood, as Eel, his artistic friend Florrie and others scrape out an impoverished living and wonder about "the blue death" that rears its ugly head in their neighborhood.

Eel is hired by Dr. John Snow to help interview the residents, often crammed several families to a house, as he had a few years of schooling before being orphaned and fleeing a miserable home. Snow's theory that cholera it not caused by breathing bad air, but instead, by drinking bad water, isn't widely accepted, but Eel comes to think that Dr. Snow is right, and goes to great pains to help him find evidence to support his claim. (There is also mention of Snow's experiments with the miracle gas chloroform.

Excellent historical fiction for middle school readers, and a book that could easily be used in a classroom setting. Suggest to budding scientists, and readers who like Julie Chibarro's wonderful historical fiction DEADLY, about typhoid Mary. Other books to feed the brains of those interested in diseases include Laurie Halse Anderson's FEVER, 1893, Jim Murphy's non-fiction books INVINCIBLE MICROBE and AN AMERICAN PLAGUE and Suzanne Jurmain's THE SECRET OF THE YELLOW DEATH.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Great Trouble, fantastic historical fiction 14 Sept. 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson - reading The Ghost Map by Steve Johnson a number of years ago, I was astounded by the devastation of the cholera epidemic and the research that went into writing that fascinating nonfiction book. Reading The Great Trouble a number of years later brought me right back to that time, location, and intriguing situation as a doctor worked hard to prove to others that he was correct about a water pump passing around the cholera epidemic. What I appreciated about this book was the same thing I appreciated about Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, the trial and situation the characters were in was brought to life through personality and care. I loved reading about Eel, the main character. He came to life for me with his story of trial and heartache as he shared why he worked so hard every day and how he had a huge secret he was hiding from almost everyone, beyond hiding from a dangerous man who was hunting him down. I loved how his story naturally integrated into the cholera epidemic, how he was able to interest Dr. Snow with his communication and determination and how he turned out to be a great detective in the research to help save his community and people. I highly recommend this book to students and adults who can handle death (over 600 people died, part of the history) and who love mystery, science, and animals. The time period was revealed through the eyes of an innocent, caring boy who just was trying to survive the tough situation life had presented him with... Just fantastic. I have had many readers who want historical fiction books that have adventure and mystery, this has it all!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Page-Turning Adventure with a Medical Twist 13 Nov. 2013
By M. V. Lyons - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Thirteen-year-old Eel is a mudlark in Victorian London. Mudlarks were orphans who rummaged in the filthy mud of the Thames River for objects they could sell for a few coins to keep themselves alive from day to day. Deborah Hopkinson knows how to write a page-turning adventure story with characters you can believe in and a young hero who touches your heart. And she knows how to weave historical fact into her tale to enrich it and make the world she is portraying come alive. She shows the misery of the working poor in a filthy, unforgiving Victorian London, and Eel's struggle to stay alive, but she doesn't overburden young readers with so many heartrending details that they might stop reading. Eel tells his fast-paced story in a matter-of-fact voice that describes the awful living conditions of the poor without making the book too somber to read and without dampening the excitement of his adventurous and often dangerous life. And every chapter has a cliffhanger ending. You find yourself quickly warming to the empathetic mudlark hero and cheering him on when he faces a new difficulty.

Eel has run away from his cruel stepfather. He is resourceful and earns small amounts of money by doing whatever he can including working at a brewery, filtering river mud, and taking care of Dr. John Snow's laboratory animals. He needs the money, not just to keep himself alive but also because of a heartrending secret that that he must keep at all costs.

Dr. Snow is one of the real-life characters seamlessly woven into the story. During the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, John Snow discovered that water was the carrier of the cholera bacteria. His study of the cause and effect of the cholera epidemic laid the foundation for the science of epidemiology.

Eel's intelligence impresses Dr. Snow, who asks the boy to help him investigate the cause of the cholera epidemic. And from that point on, Eel's life changes dramatically.

The Great Trouble is a great read for older middle-graders (ages ten and up). My one small criticism is that Eel is sometimes given vocabulary that sounds too sophisticated for a thirteen-year-old with little schooling. But the story's depth and momentum swept aside that concern and drew me into its intriguing and credible microcosm of fiction and fact: fast-paced adventure, mystery, edge-of-seat drama, and fascinating medical history. And I'm sure it will magnetize younger readers too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Engaging Historical Fiction 28 Nov. 2013
By K. M. Martin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Cholera with a mix of Little Orphan Annie-without the singing!!!:) 8 May 2014
By Tammy Poteat - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Great Trouble: A mystery of London, The Blue Death, and A Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson. Eel, is a orphan hiding out from his stepfather, and working the Thames as a Mudlark when the Cholera epidemic breaks out on Broad Street in London. He assists Dr. John Snow in his investigation to find out how the disease is spread. Most of the people believe it came from bad air or "miasma", but Snow and Eel thinks it comes from a local pump that all the residents in the area use.

Hopkinson's book is a great read for pre-teen children because it combines real historical figures along with the fictional character of Eel. The details of the "Blue Death" are described without being "gross" and seen through the eyes of its main character, a twelve year old boy and even though the novel takes place during Victorian England are very relatable to today's students. Working as a children's librarian at a local elementary school, kids love a story that tells them the facts of history without boring them. I definitely recommend the book for children 10-12.
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