Monday, April 27, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: The Devil's Paintbox by Victoria Mckernan

Title: The Devil's Paintbox
Author: Victoria McKernan
Starred Reviews: SLJ, PW
Aiden,15, and Maddy, 13, are the last survivors of a community in the plains of Kansas in the summer of 1866. They are literally scraping mud to keep the hunger at bay when Jefferson T. Jackson, a wagon train leader and recruiter for a logging camp, runs into the two kids. Impressed by their pluck and more compassionate than he looks, he agrees to take the kids with him and "sell" Aiden to the Oregon logging camp. It is a rough trip out to Oregon but the people in this wagon train are all people like the two kids who have little or nothing to lose. The journey gives good insight into the lives of these people who settled the west and as their lives intersected with the Native Americans already living there, we see the clash of cultures and resources that resulted. Aiden ends up befriending a boy his age, Tupic, who belongs to the Nez Perce tribe. After the Indians save Aiden's life, he is later forced to help Tupic to save his own tribe from the scourge of Smallpox. Not all the characters make it to Oregon and so the costs of the trip are made clear. I enjoyed this book very much. It really gives you the sense of what it was like going across the country right after the civil war. McKernan does not romanticize the story in any way although there is love and humanity in the book but it is hard to come by. I never knew that the smallpox vaccine was purposely kept from the Indians although the author makes it very clear that at no time were infected blankets purposely given to the Indians, something that was rumored.... This book is written quite well, researched well and holds up as an interesting read. It is one of the best historical fiction books written for teens in a long time. After it ended , I really missed the characters. The author just brings you into this world. I don't know that it will win the Printz but it is a book well worth reading and having in the YA collections.
Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library


Margo said...

I very much agree with you. I don't normally read historical fiction but I found this story very engrossing.

DogEar said...

I also found this to be an exceptional historical fiction for teens. I usually shy away from the genre but your review led me to this one. I would be surprised and disappointed if it didn't have a Printz sticker on it come 2010.