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The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel Hardcover – September 10, 2013


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 8.11.2013 edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375848185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375848186
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

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

More About the Author

Deborah Hopkinson is as award-winning of picture books, fiction, and nonfiction for young readers. In 2013 she received a Robert F. Sibert Honor and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award honor for Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.

She has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text twice, for A Band of Angels and Apples to Oregon. Sky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building, was a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor awardee. She lives near Portland, Oregon.

Deborah's most recent book, The Great Trouble, A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel was named a Best Book of 2013 by School Library Journal.

Visit her on the web at www.deborahhopkinson.com

Customer Reviews

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He assists Dr. John Snow in his investigation to find out how the disease is spread.
Tammy Poteat
Eel makes for a very appealing main character, he has a remarkably positive attitude considering the difficult circumstances he finds himself facing.
Heidi Grange
I have had many readers who want historical fiction books that have adventure and mystery, this has it all!
Deborah Alvarez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Alvarez on September 14, 2013
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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Knapp on June 14, 2014
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elliott Kronenfeld on April 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A good read for the YA crowd centered on Victorian England and how a seemingly simple mudlark saves a community. This story has strong male and female characters with strong character development.
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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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