Set in 1865, McKernan's (Shackleton's Stowaway) gripping novel follows the westward journey of 16-year-old Aiden, with his younger sister, Maddie, from their late parents' farm in Kansas. Harsh conditions and a devastating fire have prompted the exodus of most of the townsfolk, and the siblings have nearly starved to death when the story begins. New opportunity comes in the form of a wagon train and its guide, who offers Aiden a chance to pay off the cost of his and Maddie's trip with labor at a logging camp. Traveling across the country and deep into Aiden's experiences of despair and hope reborn, McKernan's supple prose (a bowl of jam "shimmers in the sun like a pot of melted rubies") immerses readers in a sometimes brutal history; a story line about the threat to Indians from smallpox ("the devil's paintbox") and the policy of denying them vaccines, builds to a powerful conclusion. Flawless attention to detail and steady pacing keep readers fully engaged. While the Indians Aiden meets may come off idealized, the other characters are fully fledged. Readers will be riveted. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Devil's Paintboxby Victoria McKernan
They say there are a
When orphans Aiden and Maddy Lynch first meet trailrider Jefferson J. Jackson in the spring of 1865, they’re struggling to survive on their family’s drought-ravaged Kansas farm. So when Jackson offers an escape—a 2000-mile journey across the roughest country in the world—Aiden knows it’s their only choice.
They say there are a hundred ways to die on the Oregon Trail, and the long wagon journey is broken only by catastrophe: wolf attacks, rattlesnakes, deadly river crossings, Indians, and the looming threat of smallpox, “the devil’s paint.” Through it all, Aiden and Maddy and a hundred fellow travelers move forward with a growing hope, and the promise of a new life in the Washington Territory. But one question haunts them: who will survive the journey?
In an adventure-filled and historically accurate new novel, Victoria McKernan captures both the peril and the stunning beauty of the frontier West. Shackleton’s Stowaway (“Truly thrilling” according to The Washington Post) was Victoria McKernan’s first novel for young adults. She lives in Washington, D.C..
Orphans Aiden and Maddy, 15 and 13, are starving on what's left of their parents' drought-devastated ranch in Kansas, 1866. When a gruff yet likable trail guide, Jefferson J. Jackson, shows up, Aiden indentures himself as a logger in exchange for their passage to a new life in the Pacific Northwest via wagon train. What ensues is a harrowing journey across the continent during which Aiden is not only physically challenged but also beset by personal tragedy and moral conflict involving a group of Nez Perce Indians. The plot ultimately revolves around his interaction with his Native friend, Tupic, and the tribe's quest to get the vaccine for the smallpox virus, or "the devil's paintbox." This carefully researched novel describes actual historical events, such as the Sand Creek massacre, and includes an author's note about the controversy over whether or not Native Americans were deliberately infected with the virus. References to abortion, alcohol, and drug use (such as opium and laudanum), and a brief encounter with a prostitute, make this a vivid yet still teen-friendly read depicting the harsh realities of frontier life. The interactions between Aiden and Tupic, though somewhat unlikely, are fascinating as are the descriptions of life in an early lumber camp. This action-packed novel has all the elements of a good Western, including lively fight scenes and a main character who becomes a rugged individualist, risking life and limb for a cause he believes in. Fans of wilderness survival stories or adventure sagas will appreciate it most.-Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
“Flawless attention to detail and steady pacing keep readers fully engaged . . . Readers will be riveted.”
Starred Review, School Library Journal, February 2009:
“This action-packed novel has all the elements of a good Western. . . Fans of wilderness survival stories or adventure sagas will appreciate it most.”
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 3 MB
- Age Range:
- 14 Years
Meet the Author
Victoria McKernan is the author of the acclaimed Shackleton's Stowaway, a historical novel for young adults about the eighteen-year-old stowaway on Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition to the South Pole. She has also written four novels for adults. She is currently at work on her next novel for young readers.
Victoria McKernan lives in Washington, D.C., with a dog, two cats, and one boa constrictor.
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