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The Devil's Paintbox
Synopses & Reviews
When orphans Aiden and Maddy Lynch first meet trailrider Jefferson J. Jackson in the spring of 1865, theyre struggling to survive on their familys drought-ravaged Kansas farm. So when Jackson offers an escape—a 2000-mile journey across the roughest country in the world—Aiden knows its 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 devils 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. Shackletons Stowaway (“Truly thrilling” according to The Washington Post) was Victoria McKernans first novel for young adults. She lives in Washington, D.C..
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About 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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