Title: The Devil's Paintbox
Author: Victoria McKernan
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright Date: 2009
Printed Date: January 2009
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.