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Archive for the month “August, 2013”

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

ImageEel has been a mudlark – a boy who lives off of what he finds on the banks of the Thames – during the Victorian era. He now lives in Soho where he works as an errand boy at a brewery. When people begin to fall ill and die, Eel learns that the telltale sign of blue lips is indicative of cholera. Within days the Great Trouble is in full swing – the cholera epidemic that would take over 600 lives in the poor, overcrowded homes in Soho. Eel makes extra money by helping out around a physician’s house. It is this doctor, John Snow, who is convinced that cholera is not spread by the miasma (bad air) in London but through contaminated water. With Eel at his side they set off to prove that a particular water pump on Broad Street is the epicenter of the epidemic. This is a wonderful medical mystery, an informative read about a killer disease (the backmatter is terrific), and a terrific taste of Dickensian London.


Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, ills. by K.G. Campbell (Candlewick)

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, ills. by K.G. Campbell (Candlewick)

This may be Kate DiCamillo’s wildest book yet and it works like a charm. Every character is off-beat but still tethered sufficiently to reality. Mom is a romance writer, Dad is an oddball who is forever reintroducing himself to people, Tootie from next door accidentally vacuumed up a squirrel (Ulysses of the title), and that’s just the beginning. Flora is our protagonist and she is a misfit kid who lives in the world of comic books. When Tootie vacuums up Ulysses, she takes him in and realizes that there’s much more to Ulysses than being a squirrel. He writes poetry, he can fly, but most of all he can be a friend. Flora’s friend William Spiver is temporarily blind and is fascinated by Flora and Ulysses. It’s a very quirky story (which appeals) and the writing is lovely. In the end, I think that a poetry writing squirrel is just what the world of children’s books needs. I should also mention that bits of the book have comic-like illustrations that resonate well with Flora’s addiction to her comics. This comes out in September so we have to wait for the final art work but the sketches in the ARC were wonderful.

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