A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Great Trouble offers great historical insight into a cholera epidemic in 1850s London, seen through the eyes of loyal, hardworking, 12-year-old orphan Eel. Death is a frequent topic, and there's some description of sick people. Villains kidnap and beat Eel, and a kitten is in danger before Eel comes to the rescue. One character kissses another on the forehead. Occasional mentions of alcohol are realistic for the times, as is Eel's job in a brewery, but there's no description of characters drinking; villainous characters who consume alcohol don't make it look attractive.
What's the story?
THE GREAT TROUBLE chronicles 12-year-old Eel's life in 1850s London. Orphaned and on his own, he makes a meager living cleaning up in a brewery and trolling the dirty Thames river for any scrap he can sell. When he's unjustly accused of stealing at the brewery, he's unable to prove his innocence because an epidemic of the blue death -- cholera -- breaks out in his neighborhood. But, thanks to his part-time job tending animals for a prominent London doctor, he's in the right place at the right time to help discover the cause of the epidemic and keep it from spreading further -- if he can keep away from the mean stepfather who wants to drag him into a life of crime.
Is it any good?
In The Great Trouble, author Deborah Hopkinson returns to the successful formula of putting a fictional child hero in the middle of historic events, but it offers little emotional depth. Twelve-year-old Eel is the tried-and-true orphan trying to make the best of a bad situation, but he serves mostly as an apt vehicle for saving the day, with little for the reader to connect with. The many supporting characters, while colorful, lack detail and are defined with broad strokes.
The book delivers historical accuracy, scientific inquiry, and medical information in a lively, engaging, and easy-to-understand way. The overall story will intrigue and entertain many kids, and, even if it's not too memorable, its educational value makes The Great Trouble a worthwhile read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why historical fiction is so popular. Do you think it's a good way to learn about life in the past?
Is cholera still a problem today? What other illnesses can cause epidemics? What can we do to prevent them?
What are the "five Ws" that an investigation must answer? What would you like to investigate?
- Author: Deborah Hopkinson
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, History, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
- Publication date: September 10, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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