I'm typically not one to enjoy stories about the "old west," whether it be in movies or in books. Just not really my thing. That being said, I used to absolutely love the show "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" that was on CBS (I think), years ago, for like 10 seasons. Loved that show. And I really, really enjoyed this book. Maybe I'm moving over to the other side when it comes to western-type media!
The Devil's Paintbox, written by Victoria McKernan, follows 16 year-old Aiden and younger sister Maddie, as they fight to survive as orphans in 1865. They've been living on their family farm in Kansas, basically slowly starving to death after their mother and siblings died, their father left, and a fire ripped through their town, resulting in the departure of the rest of the people living remotely near them. Aiden and Maddie were on their own and at the rate they were going, wouldn't be alive much longer.
When a man named Jackson rides into to town, claiming he's a guide to the wagon train, he convinces Aiden and Maddie to come with him, giving Aiden future work at a logging camp to work off the pair's cost of the journey. Over the course of the trip the siblings encounter sickness, harsh environments, and a true struggle for survival. In the midst of all the hardship though, friendship and hope are most definitely the main themes and they stick out loud and clear.
It appears the author did her research pretty well for this little novel. I was really impressed at how true it seemed to the time period, even in the dialogue of the characters, the description of the surroundings, and the difficulty of the situation Maddie, Aiden, and their fellow journey-mates were in. I was pulled into The Devil's Paintbox from the first page and can definitely see this appealing to many in the upper-middle-grade/young adult sector. Boys and girls will both enjoy this gritty, yet hope-filled novel.
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The Devil's Paintbox
Young Adult fiction