Amy's Reviews > The Devil's Paintbox

The Devil's Paintbox by Victoria McKernan
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Apr 27, 10

bookshelves: young-adult
Read from April 13 to 27, 2010

I really liked this book. Aiden and Maddy are the only two remaining members of their family who have not died as a result of an accident or starvation. They are on the brink - eating dirt to stay alive, when one day a man rides up on a horse and offers to take them west over the Oregon Trail in exchange for a year's servitude in the logging business. It's their last hope and they agree. The trek west is filled with adventure - soldiers who have small pox, Native Americans who help guide the wagon train, the crossing of rivers, and of course the precarious crossing of the mountain ranges. Once in Washington, Aiden dives into his work and also participates in weekly fights to earn extra money. He maintains a friendship with one of the Native American boys he met on the Trail, eventually helping him secure small pox vaccine for his tribe.

I am a sucker for historical fiction and loved this book because of the historical nature of living off nature, the hard work of physical labor, and the relationships that develop as a result of living among the people you have to depend on to survive.

Every time I read a book, I look to see whether or not it is appropriate for my middle school library. I was disappointed when I got to the part describing traveling prostitutes who visit the logging camps. There are times when such topics are above the head of some of my students, but the detail used to describe the tents and Bandy, the leader of the prostitutes, leads me to believe that this time, my students would "get it". I will probably keep the book in the library but only recommend it to a mature few.
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