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


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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 (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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

Review

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, September 2, 2013:
"Hopkinson adeptly recreates the crowded, infested streets of London, but it’s her distinct, layered characters and turbulent, yet believable plot that make this a captivating read."

Starred Review, School Library Journal, October 2013:
"Although detailing a dire period in history, Eel tells his story in a matter-of-fact and accessible manner, making his story palatable and entertaining."

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

4.8 out of 5 stars
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A very readable, enjoyable story with enough action and detail to satisfy most readers.
Heidi Grange
As such, we're always on the lookout for good historical fiction that can help us explore the impact of diseases on the way people live and think.
Jennifer M.
I think that young scientists and lovers of historical fiction will enjoy this fast-paced and well-written story.
K. M. Martin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Eel, a young orphan who spends all his free time working to protect a valuable secret from the likes of Fisheye Bill Tyler, finds himself distracted when his neighborhood gets hit by cholera. Despite his own troubles, Eel wants to help his neighbors so he appeals to Dr. John Snow, a man who seems to have the answers. But as the epidemic surges, can Eel help Dr. Snow stop the epidemic and keep his secret safe? Or will he have to make a choice?

Eel makes for a very appealing main character, he has a remarkably positive attitude considering the difficult circumstances he finds himself facing. The secondary characters are also fun to read about and it was easy to care about them, even the ones who made just a brief appearance. Eel's friend, Florrie is especially likable.

Plotwise, the story moves along at a nice clip beautifully integrating Eel's personal difficulties with those of the disease-ridden neighborhood. The mystery was intriguing, even though I already knew the answer, it was interesting to read about how the characters got there. I especially appreciated the author's explanations at the end about her adjustments to the time table and details about the historical characters. I always find myself fascinated by stories about people that make a difference in the world in relatively quiet ways. Dr. John Snow's discoveries continue to impact the world today and I enjoyed reading about it.

A very readable, enjoyable story with enough action and detail to satisfy most readers. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hopkinson did a nice job of bringing the world of 1854 London to life: the sights, the smells, the bustle... the reader really gets a sense of what it was like to be there. I like that the book focuses on how the traditional view of disease was slowly beginning to change and the role that this particular epidemic played in the change. Rather than just focusing on the people who suffered from the disease the book also looks at Dr. John Snow as he endeavors to prove what really caused the outbreak. It's a fantastic real life story, and I'm glad Hopkinson decided to tell it. Too few people know about this important moment in our history.

The team of teachers I work with has created a cross-disciplinary unit about epidemics. As such, we're always on the lookout for good historical fiction that can help us explore the impact of diseases on the way people live and think. We use Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793, Patricia Reilly Giff's Nory Ryan's Song, and Caroline Cooney's Code Orange.This is an excellent addition to our collection.
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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.
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