The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Named Eel by Deborah Hopkinson
As if his name is not bad enough, Eel is an orphan and a "mudlark," which means he searches in the nasty Thames River in England for bits of anything to sell for money. He is also being hunted by his awful stepfather, Fisheye Bill Tyler who mistreated him and is trying to find Eel's little brother to make he work as a beggar. Eel has Henry hidden away and he works hard to earn money to keep his brother safe, fed and be able to get an education. Henry has lots of odd jobs, one of them being for Dr. John Snow, a famous doctor to the queen who is working on making anesthesia safe for medical procedures. An outbreak of cholera occurs and Eel alerts Dr. Snow to the epidemic. It all seems to be coming from one area of the city. Many people believe it is the bad air people are breathing, but Dr. Snow believes otherwise. Will Dr. Snow and Eel be able to find out what is making people sick before more people die?
I wasn't sure if I was going to like the book as I started to read the first few pages. But the book starts to draw you in with unforgettable characters such as Eel, Florrie, Thumbless Jake, Fisheye Bill Tyler and others. The reader begins to care what happens to Eel and the others in his community that are coming down with cholera and dying in great numbers. It's a great piece of historical writing about the cholera that was once known as the Blue Death and how Dr. John Snow found out the source which was causing the spread of the outbreak. At the end of the book are some great author's notes on the real-life characters portrayed in the book and about the deadly cholera disease. Highly recommend for 5th grade and up.