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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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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,026 ratings  ·  260 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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35th out of 92 books — 419 voters
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Community Reviews

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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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Eliza Crewe
Solidly good and about an interesting event in history that I knew nothing about. Very much a middle grade book.
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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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
Anna
A very good fictionalized children's account of the Cholera epidemic detailed in the great adult non-fiction The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. A good introduction for children of living conditions of Victorian London, and the history of medicine Eel and Florrie are very engaging characters, I am not sure the side plot with Fisheye Bill was really necessary, but I guess it did add a bit of excitement. I was di ...more
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
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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Jeff Harris
This was quite a compelling historical fiction story, and it opened my eyes to a great many facts that I had never known before about important developments in epidemiology and medical science. it really contained some pretty weighty content and concepts that may be a bit tough for younger readers to tackle, but I found the story of Eel, his own personal troubles, and the much larger troubles that consumed much of London due to the cholera epidemic, to be fascinating. It's not the usual sort of ...more
Linda
Deborah Hopkinson has interwoven her story of Eel, a thirteen-year-old homeless boy, a “riverfinder”, on the true story of Dr. John Snow’s discovery in the mid 1800’s that cholera is a water-borne disease. It is a middle-grade book and the plot events happening to the young people in the story seems fanciful, yet I enjoyed it as it also told of this terrible time when most people thought the “blue death” came from air, the horrible miasma from unclean and close living, mostly in poorer areas of ...more
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.
M.
In 1854 there was a cholera outbreak in London, England, which killed more than 600 people. At the time, no one knew what caused cholera or how it spread. Most people thought it was a result of “bad air,” what was called a miasma, but London doctor John Snow believed that cholera was transmitted through contaminated drinking water. When this particular outbreak occurred, he was able to trace the disease’s path and, by convincing town officials to close a public well and pump, to stop its advanc ...more
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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Marcia
I decided to pick this book up since it is a 2015-16 MO Mark Twain nominee and it looked interesting. I am a fan if historical fiction and this did not disappoint. It was interesting to see it from EEL's point of view and all of the other people in this story made it interesting. I was surprised to learn that some of the people (Dr. Snow, Rev. Whitehead, Dr. Farr) were real and the author was able to weave the fictional characters into the story with the people who actually lived through this ti ...more
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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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.
Sandy
Eel is just trying to make a better life for his brother but Hugzie took that opportunity away from him. Now Eel has the world on his shoulders. I picture this mudlark running through the streets, constantly watching his back, earning whatever money he can, with fear running through his veins. He’s hiding from Fisheye Bell and the many gangs which troll along the Thames River as Eel doesn’t want to be a part of their stealing and illegal activities. Eel needs to make the money to pay Mrs. Miggle ...more
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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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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