Koalathebear's Reviews > The Devil's Paintbox

The Devil's Paintbox by Victoria McKernan
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Jun 20, 12


Given that this is a young adult novel, I was a little surprised at how bleak and depressing it was at times. I thought it was an excellent book and extremely evocative.

When Aiden's decides to follow a man named Jefferson Jackson across America to work for a Seattle lumber camp, his life is changed forever and so is his sister Maddy's. As well as recounting what life was like for those who travelled along the Oregon trail, it also describes Aiden's tentative friendship with Tupic, a young boy of the Nez Perce tribe and his struggles just to survive life during such precarious times.

The book gets its title from the words of a doctor describing small pox:

"This death is a devil child playing with a paintbox, just spattering all over. You reach out to grab its hand and make it stop, but you find this devil child is made of smoke."

I wouldn't say I enjoyed this book - it's very bleak. There's a lot of death, disease and suffering although described in a very matter-of-fact and non-melodramatic fashion. The author touches on topics ranging from small pox, small pox vaccination among the Native Americans, prostitution, morphine addiction and all number of "tough" topics.
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message 1: by Harron68 (new)

Harron68 It seems too strong and too bleak for young adults, but as an adult I was held by the story. The real lives of those who went West is well told in all its pain and necessary determination to make lives. The plot twists and losses along the way are still shocking. Thanx!


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