By Deborah Hopkinson
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 256 pages
London in 1865: Twelve-year-old Eel has hit an unlucky patch in his already hard life. He was just fired from his job after being wrongly accused of stealing. In danger of not being able to provide for himself and his younger brother, Henry, Eel is weighing his options a bout of cholera strikes the neighborhood. Eel is determined not to accept the fate of his friends dying and goes to a doctor whom he works for, Dr. Snow, who sees this as an opportunity to confirm the cause of cholera and stop the spread of the disease. He and Eel must work to find evidence – and convince others – before it’s too late for everyone.
The Great Trouble is a wonderful book for older children or tweens by author Deborah Hopkinson. She has created a great hero in Eel who is determined, plucky and smart and immediately endearing to the reader. The supporting characters are also well written. The book nicely highlights the challenges scientists faced when trying to prove facts against long-held beliefs and superstitions as well. Older children will enjoy this book although the content may be disturbing for less mature children.
Reviewed by Barbara Cothern