Eel is hiding. He’s hiding himself, and a secret. He’s an orphan in London in 1854, and that is not an easy life. He works hard – started as a muckraker in the Thames River. That was not a fun job.
Through a series of fortunate events, Eel was able to get a job as an errand boy in a tavern and extra work feeding the animals of a famous doctor. He needs to earn as much money as he can, and stay out of the way of his horrible step-father.
Then cholera, the Great Trouble, spreads through his neighborhood. Before Eel knows it, his friends are sick or dying. He decides he has to approach the famous doctor and ask him for help.
But help doesn’t look like what Eel expected it to look like. And in the midst of the crisis, he forgets to stay to the shadows to stay out of his stepfather’s way.
Cholera is not a happy subject for a middle grade book. I found that author Deborah Hopkinson handles the stress of living on the streets, hiding from a criminal, and watching people die all over delicately enough for all but the most sensitive readers.
I recommend The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson for ages 8 and up.