Review Blog

Jul 01 2013

Plague: a cross on the door by Ann Turnbull

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Ill. by Akbar Ali. Bloomsbury, 2013. ISBN 978 1 4081 8687 9
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Historical novel. Plague. With younger children in mind, Ann Turnbull has turned her historical writing to a new group of readers. Illustrated by Akbar Ali, the drawings show some of the features of the times: half timbered housing, a warm kitchen, the doctor dressed as a beaked harbinger of death, the overcrowded cemetery, the cross on the door. In eighty pages, Turnbull gives an account of the plague in London in 1665, told through the eyes of young Sam, adopted by the shoemaker William Kemp, with an eye to become his apprentice. But William dies of the plague and the house shut up with Sam and his dog inside, only to be released after forty days have elapsed.
Through his story Turnbull gives the younger reader an overview of the plague and its effects on the crowded city. The reader hears of the symptoms, the home remedies, the laws imposed by the London borough, the Bill of Mortality and so on, giving a factual account of the plague within the thrilling story of survival. A sequel, The great fire: a city in flames is to follow. Stories of the plague and fire of London have always been very popular, and this book would sit well with the recent non fiction book, Plague unclassified: secrets of the great plague revealed (Nick Hunter, A&C Black).
Fran Knight

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