From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Hopkinson's historical novel (Knopf, 2013) transports listeners to 1854 London at the time of the famous Broad Street pump cholera epidemic. Fictional and real characters and events are adeptly mixed to create an informative and gripping tale. The main character is the titular "boy called Eel," a likable orphan working odd jobs to take care of his little brother and keep them out of the work houses and the clutches of Fisheye Bill Tyler. Dr. John Snow, the real-life doctor who traced the cause of the outbreak, is introduced when Eel asks for the prominent doctor's help with "The Great Trouble." Keeping in mind Snow's controversial theory about the spread of the disease, Eel and the doctor work together to gather evidence from affected families and convince the town committee to shut off the Broad Street pump. The author successfully conveys the race against time as the "blue death" spreads rapidly, killing more than 600 people before Snow and Eel can stop it. Matthew Frow does a wonderful job of recreating the distinct accents that existed among Londoners and their various stations, although Eel's accent is so thick that he can be difficult to understand. Historical notes, read by Kimberly Farr, will satisfy listeners whose curiosity has been piqued. Hand this novel to fans of The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker by Cynthia DeFelice and Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.-Terri Norstrom, Cary Area Library, ILα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journal. LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Equal parts medical mystery, historical novel, and survival story about the 1854 London cholera outbreak, this introduces Eel, a boy trying to make ends meet on Broad Street. When he visits one of his regular employers, he learns the man has fallen ill. Eel enlists the help of Dr. Snow, and together they work to solve the mystery of what exactly is causing the spread of cholera and how they can prevent it. Steeped in rich fact and detailed explanations about laboratory research, Hopkinson’s book uses a fictional story to teach readers about science, medicine, and history—and works in a few real-life characters, too. Eel serves as a peek into the lower class of London society and offers readers a way to observe—and, hopefully, ask questions about—the scientific method. An author’s note provides readers with a look at the real story behind the novel, making this a great choice for introducing readers to science and history. Grades 5-8. --Sarah Bean Thompson