Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Devil's Paintbox

Title: The Devil's Paintbox

Author: Victoria McKernan

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright Date: 2009

Printed Date: January 2009

ISBN: 9780375837500

Pages: 354

Book Description (from dust jacket):

It is April 1865. Aiden and Maddy Lynch have barely survived a brutal winter alone on the remains of their family's drought-ravaged Kansas farm when an unlikely savior appears out of the morning mist.

Jefferson J. Jackson is looking for strong men to work in the Seattle lumber camps, not a half-starved teenager with a useless girl in tow, but somehow the pair convinces him to let them join his wagon train.

It is a chance at a new life for Aiden and Maddy, but one that is two thousand rough and dangerous miles away. "It's said there's a grave a mile on the Oregon Trail," Jackson tels them bluntly. "Aside from disease, there's storms, Indians, stampedes, and pure awful accident. Any way you can think up to die is out there waiting."

Aiden soon learns what's out there waiting, and the greatest challenges go beyond physical danger. When smallpox, "the devil's paint," threatens an Indian community he has befriended, Aiden's loyalties, wits, and courage are severely tested.

Victoria McKernan captures both the peril and the stuning beauty of the frontier West in an adventure-filled American story at once sweeping and intimate, heartbreaking and hopeful.


This is another book I picked up while browsing the local library. It's a touching story of a fascinating—though tragic at times—period in American history. The main characters, and Aiden in particular, feel real and quickly drew me in. I hadn't read the entire dust jacket—just the first two paragraphs—so I didn't realize until much further in the story that the title was referring to smallpox. At the end, McKernan has a note about the accuracy of her portrayal about smallpox, Whites, and Indians.


  1. When I saw the cover, I knew I'd seen this book before. No idea where...wouldn't it be funny if it were at my!

  2. Great so caught up that I forgot to say that. Sorry to be so rude!


Please feel free to comment. I love to hear from you!

Comments on posts older than 6 days are moderated.