Review Blog

Mar 26 2010

The Great Death by John Smelcer

cover image

Anderson Press, 2009. ISBN 978 1842709191.
(10-14) Highly recommended. When Millie and Maura find both their parents have died of the plague brought in by the white settler from down river, they know that they must leave their now deserted village. All of its inhabitants have died, so, gathering their belongings and those of their parents that will prove of some use, they board their canoe and begin to head down the river. But it is winter, bears are prowling for their last meal before hibernation, other cabins they find in the wilderness are deserted, the occupants falling to the same disease as their village, or, inhabited by men who view lone women, even girls of pre pubescent age, as fair game.

A heart stopping story, the cold seeps into every pore as their story of survival against all the odds, unfolds. The Alaskan wilderness is brought amazingly to life in this story of courage and endurance, and the background of The People, their stories and survival techniques in this most inhospitable of landscapes will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. For those schools which have used Hatchet by Gary Paulsen as a crowd pleaser for middle school students, then this is a marvelous alternative or companion piece.
Fran Knight

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