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

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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  805 ratings  ·  206 reviews
“A delightful combination of race-against-the-clock medical mystery and outwit-the-bad-guys adventure.” Publishers Weekly, Starred

Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a “mudlark,” he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He’s being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2013)
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Alice Yes, good for 5th Grade on up! I think Young Adults would like it as welL!
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Newbery 2014
35th out of 91 books — 399 voters
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YA & Middle Grade Epidemics
16th out of 82 books — 5 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,481)
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Monica!
I normally don’t read books about hideous epidemics, friends, because of the way that I’m a raging hypochondriac and will inevitably become obsessed with the idea that the weird tickle in my throat is the initial symptom of goddamn Ebola or something.

And cholera is particularly icky, for all that modern sewage systems have pretty much eliminated that problem in my particular part of the world.

I mean, a disease that literally makes your body expel all liquid, along with the lining of your intes
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Kat O'B
Wow! Just finished this book in one sitting! Historical fiction is not usually my favorite genre, nor do I really ever want to read anything about diseases...BUT...this story, based on a real cholera epidemic in 1854, is exciting and interesting. I love the main character, Eel, who seems authentic and through whose eyes the reader gets a real feeling for life on the streets of England for a poor boy. In fact, I cared about all of the characters, big and small, and felt the unfairness of the situ ...more
Joan
May 06, 2014 Joan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction assignments
This was pretty good. It is a great cover, for starters. This is an exciting part of medical history related by a "mudlark". The narrator does a fine job, except when the author decides that she should pay attention to the rather feeble story of the character. The personalities were well enough developed, but the dramatic kidnapping and rescue were both pretty damn dubious. Especially the way the narrator, Eel, bounces back from a severe beating to give vital testimony at the committee meeting. ...more
Barb Middleton
Deborah Hopkinson knows how to pass on interesting historical facts. While I've read her nonfiction books, this is the first fiction book of hers that I've read and I'm not surprised that I found the story lacking a bit in character development, but full of great facts. Hopkinson presents an interesting study of how an epidemic spreads throughout a community as a medical professional, with the assistant of an orphan, studies patterns and causes in an effort to determine the origin of a disease.

E
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Cate Brooks
Learned all kinds of new stuff in this one and was surprised at how interesting I found the history of Cholera. As far as I could tell, it was almost exacting in the historical details - even many of the lead characters. It seemed just a few ticks away from being narrative NF.

This came across as such true and traditional "historical fiction" partly because it was clear that the story was more important than the characters or dialog. Aside from the tacked on "Fisheye Bill" piece, everything in th
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Shannon
There's a subgenre of historical fiction I call Kids in the Middle of an Historic Crisis. This book is a solid member of this genre. A pleasure to read; liked the characters.
Hippo Style Lily
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LCPL Teens
Living in London in 1854, Eel ekes out a living doing a variety of odd jobs, from sweeping a tavern floor, to "mudlarking" for odds and ends in the river to sell for a few pennies, to caring for the renowned Dr. Snow's experimental menagerie. His parents are dead and it seems like he is all alone in the world, but Eel has a secret that costs four shillings each week to keep. Eel's balancing act is ruined when one of the owners at the tavern falsely accuses him of stealing. Eel seeks out one of h ...more
Corielle
So I rented this ebook from our library last night, and read the whole thing in one sitting. I didn't exactly realize that it was aimed at young adult readers -- I just saw that it referenced the cholera outbreak on Broad Street in 1854, which I had just read a great book about called The Ghost Map, which focused on Dr. John Snow and his investigation of the Broad Street water pump (the author of The Great Trouble actually mentions at the end of her book that she was inspired by The Ghost Map). ...more
Suzanne
I pride myself in liking to be prepared and doing my research before I get into something. After reading The Great Trouble, I have changed my mind. I read this book solely because it was on the William Allen White Children's books list for 2016. If I had known it was a story of the outbreak of cholera and how it was stopped in London, I would have dreaded reading it. And I would have missed a GREAT tale.

Hopkinson mixes factitious characters like Eal and his brother Henry with actual historic fi
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Anita Lock
Eel used to spend much of his time as a mudlarker: wading the muddy water of the Thames River, scavenging coal, tin, copper, and rags to sell to various establishments in town. He is mudlarking less and less because he finds work at the Lion Brewery as well as other odds jobs in town, and he is making more money than usual, but not enough to keep his mysterious secret safe. Little does he know that he is about to get into great trouble, but his trouble is nothing compared to the great trouble th ...more
Carol Royce Owen
This is a Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award nominee this year, one that I enjoyed listening to in my car. And since I often sat in my car after arriving at my destination, just to hear the end of a chapter, I give it a 5 star rating.

The story takes place in 1854 in London, England, where a young boy, Eel, works hard at three or four jobs to survive, but also save money for some secret reason. An honest boy, Eel becomes a target of one bosses' nephew, intent on seeing him fired. When Eel
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Aaron C
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rhoda  Crowell
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel takes the facts of the tragic 1850’s event of the London cholera epidemic, known as the Blue Death, and turns it into an interesting and informative novel for children. Many of the characters in the story as based on real persons who were instrumental in finding the reason the spread of cholera. The novel also doesn't sugarcoat life during that time; depicting how children and women had no rights if the husband died and ...more
Walter N
This book is set in London in the neighborhood of Broadstreet, a poor area, and the neighborhood surrounding Regent Street, a rich area. Both of these streets exist in real life. in This book takes place between Monday, August 28, 1854 to Wednesday September 26, 1855. Since this book is based on a historic event, the cholera outbreak of 1854, these dates are historically correct. This book starts when Eel releases his step-father, a criminal, learns that he is still alive and is trying to kidna ...more
Jackie
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, The Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel is a work of fiction based on the amazing true story of Dr. John Snow, the father of Epidemiology, the London Cholera Epidemic of 1854, and the hundreds of citizens who succumbed to the deadly disease. Within hours of ingesting tainted water from city pumps, these residents contracted severe diarrhea and vomiting that usually took their lives within days, if not hours.

This is the story of how Dr. Snow put theories to w
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Diane
“Today we are using science - not superstition - to stop the spread of disease."

Eel used to be a mudlarker, but thanks to Thumbless Jake, he got a job as a messenger at Lion Brewery. It's much cleaner, less dangerous work. But Eel needs money to keep his secret hidden. “What mattered now was protecting my secret. And to keep it safe, I needed four shillings a week.” So, he also works for Mr. Griggs, the tailor, and Dr. Snow. It's a busy life, but he does have time for some friends, like Florrie
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Miss Amanda
gr 5-8 116pgs

1854, London, England. When 13 year old Eel is accused of stealing at his job, he thinks it's the worst thing that can ever happen. He desperately needs the job to support his younger brother and keep his evil stepfather from finding them both. When he asks the tailor to prove to his boss that he earned the money working for him, he discovers something even worse: cholera. As the cholera spreads throughout the neighborhood, Eel is desperate to find help. When he asks Dr. John Snow f
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Vicki
I had never heard of this book until I had a reading challenge and my "blind date" found this book to meet the challenge we had. I was very pleasantly surprised.

The story is about a 13 year old boy named Eel who finds himself in the middle of a bad epidemic of cholera, and he ends up losing several people he loves. After being accused of stealing from his place of employment, his future looks bleak since he has no parents to take care of him. So he begins to think of gong back to being scavengin
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mg
This book could easily also be subtitled, "So you want to be an epidemiologist ..." It is, basically, following Eel and Dr. Snow as they solve the mystery of the cholera breakout on Broad Street in 1850s London. They go through all the steps that an epidemiologist would, interviewing victims and their families, noticing patterns, trying to identify outliers, identifying the index case, etc. Don't get me wrong, it was fascinating! And Deborah Hopkinson did a wonderful job of weaving in a sympathe ...more
Alice
4.25 stars This book is right up my alley! Historical Fiction! Mixed with Historical Non-Fiction.
The Cholera Outbreak of 1854 on Broad Street in London.. and how it was discovered is very interesting.

It is told through the eyes of a 12 year old boy named Eel an orphan street boy. It is a very interesting way to tell the story of the real characters like Dr Snow and Reverend Whitehead.

I found it very fascinating , quick moving and interesting. The notes at the end of the true historical facts
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Maria Kiguthi
My 7 year old read this book out loud to me. He loves all things science so this was a good match for him. The book is a historical fiction tale about Eels as he helps Dr John Snow investigate a huge cholera outbreak on Broad Street. The book is very close to actual events and while some words were hard for a 7 year old it would be a great fit for a little older child. I received a copy through Goodreads First Reads.
Rachael
There wasn't much a climax here since we know pretty early on that the main character is working to help Dr. Snow prove his theory that the cholera epidemic is caused from the Broad Street pump and not miasma. Essentially the 'mystery' is solved pretty early and the story ends as you'd expect so this was a bit slow. The back matter and the few quotes at the beginning of the chapters about the actual Dr. Snow and the cholera epidemic were the most fascinating, however, this was a nice alternative ...more
Stephanie Jewett
A couple of years ago, I read The Ghost Map, a narrative non-fiction account of the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, which killed over 600 people and led Dr. John Snow to begin to prove his theory that cholera was spread not by "bad air" but via contaminated water. The author of The Great Trouble read it, too, and it inspired her to write this fictionalized account, with a 13-year old boy as the main character and as Dr. Snow's unlikely assistant. This was well-paced and Eel is a sympathetic cha ...more
Ms. Schutte
There is honestly something for everyone in this book--historical fiction, genuinely interesting and confounding mystery, mathematical puzzle solving, a massive disease outbreak and innovative science to solve it, clever characters. I liked this book so much more than I thought I would. I was expecting straight historical fiction, when it's really much heavier on the mystery and epidemiology.

The basic premise is that Eel (an orphan who gets by with odd jobs and finding scraps in the Thames), fin
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Anna Lee
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Valerie
I received The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson in a GoodReads free giveaway. I received a hardback book with a beautifully illustrated blue cover and signed postcard from the author. The book is familiar in size, shape and manufacture to the hardbacks received in the mail from traditional bookclub offerings of yesteryear. The book is 249 pages of light yellowish paper, with the wider margins and the decorative font chapter titles more familiar to young adult fiction.

I really enjoyed The Great
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Meredith
If my own memories of reading historical fiction as a kid are accurate (dragged into it kicking and screaming-I was a fantasy fan), then it must be pretty thankless to write this kind of book for children. Even as an adult, I have the crazy idea (proven wrong time and time again) that historical fiction=boring. But then I read a book like this. Historical fiction at it's best. Fascinating, exciting, educational. It's simple enough to be a great choice for kids, but there's enough detail that the ...more
Nicole
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson
Knopf, 2013
Historical Fiction
256 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

I listened to this as an audio book, and I've got to warn you, the reader's voice is a bit screechy as he gives his best English Cockney accent. I wasn't sure if he was hitting a stride with the accent, or if my ears were growing accustomed to it, but towards the latter half of the book the sharpness of it had slightly subsided!
This hist
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Karen
If Goodreads allowed ratings that include decimals I would give this book a 4.5. The character Eel drew me in and I really cared about what happened to him and the residents surrounding the Broad Street Pump. The Great Trouble is the fictional retelling of a historical event. The book includes many factual details and an afterword that divides fact from fiction. My favorite part is Eel's reference to a 'new book' that was just published by Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South. Many adults are unaw ...more
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14256
I write picture books, nonfiction, and middle grade fiction. I love history and visiting schools to talk to young readers.

TITANIC: VOICES FROM THE DISASTER was named a 2013 Sibert Honor Book and a 2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist. Annie and Helen was a finalist for a 2013 Oregon Book Award.

My most recent books are KNIT YOUR BIT, a World War I story, a historical fiction picture book s
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More about Deborah Hopkinson...
Titanic: Voices From the Disaster Hear My Sorrow: The Diary of Angela Denoto, a Shirtwaist Worker, New York City 1909 (Dear America Series) Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) A Boy Called Dickens

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