The Great Death

By Smelcer, John

Publishers Summary:
The Great Death arrived with the man from downriver, the one who came with the light-colored strangers and had little red spots covering his body. Thirteen-year-old Millie and her younger sister, Maura, are fascinated by the guests, but soon sickness takes over their village. As they watch the people they know and love die, the sisters remain unaffected and begin to realize that they will have to find a new home. Alone in the cold Alaskan winter of 1917, struggling to overcome the obstacles nature throws their way, the girls discover that their true strength lies in their love for each other. John Smelcer’s spare and beautiful prose shapes the sisters’ story with tenderness and skill, presenting a powerful tale of determination, survival, and family.

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ISBN
978-0-80508-100-8
Publisher
Holt


REVIEWS

School Library Journal

Reviewed on November 1, 2009

Gr 6-9 Smelcer draws on the early-20th-century history of his native Alaskan ancestors for this story based on the tragic effects of the white man's diseases on people who had neither natural immunity nor medicines to fight them. Two sisters, Millie and Maura, ages 13 and 10, are the sole survivors of such an epidemic in their village. Knowing that they cannot manage on their own, they strike off downriver in hopes of finding people who are still alive. The author ...Log In or Sign Up to Read More

Horn Book Magazine

Reviewed on November 1, 2009

A gripping and poignant survival story, made even more so because of its basis on historical fact. Two sisters are the only survivors of a devastating smallpox epidemic that rips through their small Alaskan Native village in 1917. Millie (thirteen, responsible, stoic) and Maura (ten, kind, open-hearted) set off downriver to find the trading settlement their father has often spoken of—and, they hope, other survivors of the Great Death. The girls encounter perils from the start: maraudin...Log In or Sign Up to Read More

Junior Library Guild

Reviewed on August 1, 2009

The Great Death is an emotional account of devastation, loss, and self-discovery. Author John Smelcer provides a wealth of detail about the Alaskan village and its inhabitants, including the construction and sparse furnishings of the villagers' homes, the people's day-to-day activities, and a look at how special days are celebrated. The relationship between responsible Millie and her timid younger sister, Maura, also feels authentic. As the two journey together, Maura is forced to grow up, while Millie comes to understand how important her...Log In or Sign Up to Read More

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