Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review: The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker by Cynthia DeFelice

As I was browsing the library shelves with arms already stacked with books, I couldn't resist grabbing just one more book to take home. (They really need shopping carts at the library, although a forklift might be more adequate.) We are truly blessed to live near the award-winning Gail Borden Library, which was one of the five libraries nationwide to win the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Science. Need I say more?

Anyway, there I was amid thousands of reading choices, and this one just jumped out at me as interesting. I could tell by the sticker on the spine that it was a historical story. Historical novels are my pet peeve. When they're well done, I love them. However, when an author plunks a kid with the character and attitudes of the year 2010 down in some other time, I really dislike it.

The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker makes the grade in my view when it comes to historical fiction. In this intriguing story, Lucas Whitaker is orphaned when his family members die, one by one, from consumption. His sorrow drives him from the family farm, and he is taken in as apprentice by a kindly doctor in another town. This book explores the superstitions of the people of the 19th century and how doctors of this time period struggled to increase their own learning while fighting general ignorance even among their own ranks, particularly in reference to tuberculosis. (Since my own great-grandmother died of TB in the early 1900s, leaving my grandmother an orphan, I find this of particular interest.)

A note to parents: Please pre-read this book before sharing it with your children. The practice discussed for "curing" tuberculosis is quite macabre and you may prefer to read this together as a family so you can discuss it or wait until your children are older to share this volume with them.

Disclaimer: No one has paid me in any way, shape, or form to give a favorable review of this book or to my local library. I saw the book on a shelf at the library, and it looked interesting. Read at your own risk!

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