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The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  208 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
A Matter of Life or Death

It's 1849, and twelve-year-old, Lucas Whitaker is all alone after his whole family dies of a disease called consumption which has swept through the community. Lucas is grief-stricken and filled with guilt. He might have saved his mother, who was the last to die, if only he had listened to news of a strange cure for this deadly disease.

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Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 20th 2007 by Square Fish (first published 1996)
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Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it

Did residents of New England actually practice a form of vampirism in the mid 19th century? The conclusions drawn by individual readers will vary, but the hypothesis is both fascinating and chilling. Newly orphaned and the only survivor of a family which was wiped out by tuberculosis (known as Consumption) Lucas Whittaker at 12 signs articles which apprentice him to a respected medical doctor in the community. Lucas diligently learns the primiti
DeFelice, C. (1996). The apprenticeship of lucas whitaker. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Lucas Whitaker’s entire family has succumbed to consumption. He has just buried the last family member he had. Ready to leave the home that only brings him sorrow, he sets off through the countryside until he happens upon Doc Beecher, who is in need of an apprentice. Doc Beecher teaches Lucas the ways of a country doctor in the mid 1800s, while his sister Mrs. Bunce feeds, clothes, and expects chores of him
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Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: defelice-cynthia
Twelve year-old Lucas Whitaker is orphaned during 1849 when his parents and siblings die of consumption. After his mother’s death, Lucas leaves the family farm and wanders the countryside for two days. Then, he sees a notice for a medical apprentice and is hired by Dr. Beecher. The families under the doctor's care are being decimated by consumption just as Lucas' family was. When the doctor sends Lucas to check on Sarah Stukeley, a young consumptive, Lucas finds the family getting ready to perfo ...more
Mar 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker, a novel of historical fiction set in 1849, tells the touching story of a 12 year-old boy whose entire family is killed by consumption, known better as tuberculosis. With no family left and unable to tend the farm alone, Lucas sets off, grief-stricken, and serendipitously happens upon the house of Doc Beecher in a nearby town and becomes his apprentice. Given the tragic frequency of tuberculosis at the time, Lucas is quickly reunited with the illness that rav ...more
When Lucas Whitaker loses his entire family to tuberculosis, otherwise known as consumption, he begins to wander. He finds himself at the house of Dr. Beecher who takes him on as his apprentice. Lucas begins to learn about the ins and outs of medicine. But before Lucas left his hometown a neighbor told him of a remedy for the consumption that was rampant in Connecticut at the time. There was a superstitious belief that if a family dug up the body of the first family member to die of the disease ...more
Jeni Enjaian
A review from my old blog...

The title of this book does not give away anything of the true message/theme of the book. I almost appreciate that because I have to suspend any previous notions I may have about a particular subject.

I learned a great deal about at least one superstition that surrounded the spread of disease, in this case consumption or what is known today as tuberculosis. The doctor that Lucas Whitaker was apprenticed too stood on the cusp of change for the medical profession, one th
Nov 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent example of historical fiction for kids at its best. Lucas loses his whole family to consumption and is left on his own feeling guilty that he has not done everything to save his mother. Superstition abounds as science begins to inform medicine and culture. This is a wonderful read for 4th graders and up. It would make a great book club discussion book. Too bad it's not readily available. I found it on my shelf at home and decided to finally read it. I should have done so a long time ag ...more
Miss Amanda

1849 Southwick, CT. 12 year old Lucas is left all alone after the rest of his family dies from TB. He abandons the farm and takes a job as an apprentice to a Doc Beecher. Lucas finds that he has a gift for putting people at ease and enjoys learning from Doc. Then Lucas hears people talking about how some believe that TB is caused by the spirits of the dead haunting the remaining members of the family and sucking their life force. Lucas is torn between this belief and the supposed cure for it and
Oct 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in early US history
Shelves: young-adult
I read this book for a Children's Literature class that I am taking from our Community College. Cynthia DeFelice was the Library teacher at the school where I work when Matt and Dan were in elementary school here. She has published several picture books and novels for young adults. I will be doing a paper and presentation on her writing for my final project. This book deals with a folk remedy for consumption that was practiced in New England in the late 1880's involving digging up the dead. The ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is based on historical facts about the different ideas people had back then about the diseases and conditions people suffered. Lucas looses all his family to consumption and so he strikes out on his own and soon finds himself becoming the apprentice to a local doctor. Lucas soon learns that what people hear as remedies can sometimes be simply last hopes for their suffering loved ones. A great read for anyone interested in historical medicine or times. Ideal for pre-teen and teenage rea ...more
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: social studies teachers
Great historical novel, especially if you are teaching about the late 1800's in the U.S. during the tuberculosis epidemic. Lucas is a fresh, honest and honorable young narrator who represents the country's shift from superstition to scientific awareness. I think kids who would normally turn up their noses at historical fiction might be won over. There's enough gruesome and fascinating experiences to grab their attention, and they'll surely learn and grapple with some interesting dilemmas through ...more
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
I had to read this book for a science project. It wasnt horrible but it was pretty boring. It did teach you alot though. So I would recomend this book to someone who needs a science report book, or needs a scientific book to read.
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. dating back to the 1860's, Lucas and the doctor go around town, trying to save those from "consumption" (tuberculosis) before it is too late. Once i started reading, i couldn't put it down.
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
this was a great book that had an excelent message to it... when his family died i thought that would be the end of him to... i was sure that the cure wouldn't work and it turns out it doesn't but i learned that disease can never be underestimated.
Jan 20, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this book for a teachers book club. I thought it was a nice historical fiction piece. The author does a good job of drawing the reader into the story. It's also not too long, which might appeal to some students :) I would recommend it to middle school and above.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This was interesting for its depiction of science versus superstition in the treatment of tuberculosis in the mid-1800s. Author is from central New York State.
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
A terrific book for junior high students combining elements of science, history and superstition. I use this book yearly for literature circles.
Iris Robinson
Jul 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, young-adult
I know I read it in the 7th grade, and I remember liking it....
Deborah Harris
AR Quiz No. 15810 EN Fiction
Accelerated Reader Quiz Information IL: UG - BL: 5.2 - AR Pts: 5.0
Accelerated Reader Quiz Type Information AR Quiz Types: RP, LS, VP
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Cool cool cool. I miss this. I miss reading this kind of books. Cool. Haha. My version of waxing poetic.
Carrie W
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
My son read this for a school assignment and I thought it looked interesting. A quick and easy read for an adult. A great story too. I enjoyed it!
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a children's book but the topic was so curious I took it home and read it. It's about an alternate cure to TB that involved some macabre practices...based on true stories....
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book was ok. I enjoyed some parts but I really did ont enjoy the gorry parts that involved cutting teeth and/or legs. GROSS! I did enjoy the end though mostly!!!
Aug 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
I hated this book. It was terrible. Dont read it.
Jan 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting look at medical knowledge 150 years ago. Nicely told story.
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apprentice to a doctor must overcome superstitions to save lives, see scientifically.
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Along the lines of Karen Cushman stories.
rated it liked it
May 10, 2012
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Oct 21, 2013
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Cynthia DeFelice is the author of many bestselling titles for young readers, including the novels Wild Life, The Ghost of Cutler Creek, Signal, and The Missing Manatee, as well as the picture books, One Potato, Two Potato, and Casey in the Bath. Her books have been nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award and listed as American Library Association Notable Children's Books and Bank Street Best Childr ...more
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