1854: “What we now call the Great Trouble began one thick, hot, foul-smelling morning in August.” But Eel, an orphan and a “mudlark,” didn’t know it then. “No one did.”
Black-and-white photographs. Timeline of the Broad Street cholera epidemic. Bibliography and further reading included.
The Great Trouble is based on the true story of the Blue Death, the Broad Street Cholera epidemic in London of 1854. Eel, a thirteen year old orphan “mudlark”, scrounges a living sifting through the filthy mud of the River Thames that flows through London. When cholera breaks out, Eel recognizes the symptoms of the disease and goes in search of Dr Snow, an epidemiological scientist. An entertaining storyline makes this a great way to learn about Victorian England, urbanization and industrialization, and the squalid, often dangerous conditions of the street children.
Knightly and Son by Rohan Gavin, Blomsbury (March 4, 2014)
320 pages (Hard Back), ages 10-12
When I came across this book in my never ending search for new additions to the school library, I was intrigued. A good old fashioned mystery novel for the Junior Fiction set. I have been very pleased with the trend in publishing to broaden the offerings for younger readers and this is a tightly written, well paced book that reminds me of the books and PBS Mystery show “Inspector Morse”… If Morse were say thirteen and living an hour and half outside London with an image/car crazed step-dad, and whip smart step-sister.
Our “hero” is a quiet child named Darkus Knightly who’s father Alan Knightly (the famous detective) is in a coma. Darkus uses cold logic and a quiet calm to get him through each day, always believing that his Father will wake up and they will become detectives together. While he waits, Darkus practices his deductive reasoning skills and privately wonders how his sister changes her hair color so often. I enjoyed the dark shadowy Combination, and every single character from the bullies “hoodies” to Uncle Bill. The cadre of about eight main characters were distinct, funny, with personalities sometimes a bit two dimensional (the bumbling police officer, the mysterious Uncle Bill, the Belgium housekeeper) but it worked. For a Junior Fiction mystery, the bad guys need to be bad and evil, the good guys pure and sympathetic, and the foolish characters the perfect fools. There is even an absent minded professor with a small but important part to play.
For parents, there is little not to recommend this book. There are characters that are killed, but it is done in the fashion of the 1940’s silver screen: “Oh No….” and the shadow falls. Then a detective stands over the body later going “He was stabbed”. No gory details, just great story telling. Overall I recommend this book, and the ending was outstanding. I probably will re-read this book again just to catch all the details I missed the first time.