Blog Tour Stop: Deborah Hopkinson & The Great Trouble


Today, I’m most honored to have the award-winning Ms Hopkinson visit the blog to talk a bit more about her new book The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel. Please scroll down to find her thoughtful response. Last week I reviewed Deborah Hopkinson’s fantastic historical fiction novel. It’s a book that is particularly interesting to me this year because of reading A Long Walk to Water with my class. (Did you miss this Nerdy Book Club post?) To make it easy for you, I’ll reprint my review right here.

•     •     •

I have become a real fan of historical fiction. I’m always impressed with how authors are able to form an engrossing story around real events and times. As with much historical fiction, the history surrounding The Great Trouble is fascinating.

     In 1854 London, a cholera outbreak has hit Broad Street. There is where we meet thirteen-year-old Eel, a “Mudlark” who is scrounging alone to make a living. It’s a scene right out of Oliver Twist. When the sickness starts affecting those closest to him, Eel is determined to do something to help. He swallows his nervousness and asks his part-time employer, Dr. Snow, to help. Dr. Snow, after talking with Eel, realizes the potential the street urchin possesses and employs him to help prove once and for all that cholera is not transmitted by bad air, but by tainted water.

     This would, of course, be easier if Eel wasn’t being hunted by the mysterious (to the reader) Fisheye Bill Taylor; and if he wasn’t trying to keep a secret—a secret that required all his earnings each week.

     Hopkinson does a splendid job of bringing us to the dirty streets of London to live the life of a down-and-out boy with no one to turn to. Many of the characters—such as Dr. Snow and Rev. Whitehead—are real, as is the situation with the Broad Street pump. The fact that this “really” happened is fascinating. Hopkinson also adds realistic tension and mystery to this historical tale with the addition of Eel’s secrets and pursuers.

If Victorian England and Dickens-era stories interest you; if you are intrigued by real life science and the thought process behind scientific study of diseases, this book is for you. You may also like Hopkinson’s picture book biography on Charles Dickens,

A Boy Called Dickens

•     •     •
And now, enough of me. I present to you: Ms Hopkinson!

Water – Then and Now Hopkinson2011a

I was delighted to hear that David Etkin’s students will be reading and talking about issues related to water this fall.  Here in the United States, we have come to take clean water for granted.  Reading Linda Sue Park’s A LONG WALK TO WATER will provide insight into how access to clean water shapes the lives of young people in Sudan.  And while my new book, THE GREAT TROUBLE, A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel, is set in the past, the issues about water-borne disease that it explores are still relevant today.

Many people haven’t heard of Dr. John Snow, but in fact he is one of the most revered physicians in history. A young friend who just graduated with a degree in public health told me recently that she learned about Dr. Snow in almost all her classes: “Dr. John Snow is the father of public health.”

John Snow conducted pioneering work in Victorian London to prove that cholera was not, as most people thought, caused by “miasma,” or bad air, but by water.  This may seem so obvious today it hardly seems worth mentioning.  But, unfortunately, while Snow’s work has gained fame and acceptance, cholera has not been erased from our world.

Just last month, researchers from the Yale Law School and Yale School of Public Health released a report analyzing the post-earthquake cholera outbreak in Haiti, which began in 2010 and has killed 8,000 people and affected 600,000 to date. Researchers can now point to conclusive evidence that poor sanitation at a Nepalese peacekeepers’ camp caused cholera bacteria to spread from troops and contaminate Haiti’s largest river. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 100,000 people die each year from the disease.

I chose to tell this story through historical fiction, to put readers right in the midst of the crisis and the mystery. But while THE GREAT TROUBLE is fiction, many of the details of Dr. John Snow’s 1854 work to trace the source of the Broad Street epidemic are true. I have also included almost twenty pages of back matter and resources to help students learn more.

Dr. John Snow once hoped that “the time will arrive when great outbreaks of cholera will be things of the past.”  I hope students will be inspired to follow in Dr. Snow’s footsteps and work for access to clean water for everyone.


To see the Yale Report of August 2013:

To learn more about Dr. John Snow and see his map visit the Great Trouble resources on Deborah’s website:

If you didn’t catch the rest of Mr Hopkinson’s blog tour, you can go back and catch up:

September 10 – Sharp Read

September 11 – Librarian in Cute Shoes

September 12 – Random Acts of Reading

September 13 – Styling Librarian

September 14 – Kidlit Frenzy

September 15 – Busy Librarian

September 16 – {Eat the Book}

September 17 – Nerdy Book Club

4 thoughts on “Blog Tour Stop: Deborah Hopkinson & The Great Trouble

  1. Pingback: 3.30 It’s Monday! What are you reading? #ChasingSecrets #readingandtweeting #BOOKbrackets | {Eat the Book}

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