Gateway 18: The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan

Posted November 16, 2010 by Lisa Mandina in / 0 Comments

I love, love, loved this book! It was another male main character, but I think I must really enjoy historical fiction, something I never knew I enjoyed really before I was an adult. Our main character is Aiden. We meet him and his sister Maddie trying to find grasshoppers to eat while they’re living in Kansas, in the dustbowl time. The rest of their family is dead, they’ve had to bury their siblings, older and even newborn babies. They also buried both parents. When we start the story, a man is riding through looking for people he can take west to be loggers. Aiden sees a chance and convinces Mr. Jackson to take him and his sister, saying he will work off the money it costs him. Over the passage they face all kinds of hardships, and run into Indians, Native Americans, whatever you want to call them. The Nez Pearce to be exact, a peaceful tribe. As they head to Seattle, there are all kinds of tragedies and scares, a river that is not going to let them cross. A small pox epidemic, and even soldiers that want to kill the Indians that have showed up to help them. When Aiden finally gets to the logging camps he has been through so much misery and loss that he is only relieved to give in to the pain and no thinking life of logging. He becomes a fighter in the camp, to make more money. One of his Indian friends comes back at the end to ask his help in obtaining the small pox vaccine. I always knew that our diseases were part of what killed off a lot of the Native Americans, but didn’t realize that part of the reason was that we refused to share our vaccine with them.

I like how at the end the author talks about the historical things in the story, even gives websites for readers to go read further about these topics. This is one I really will recommend highly for next year’s Gateway List.
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