A Matter of Life or Death
It's 1849, and twelve-year-old, Lucas Whitaker is all alone after his whole family dies of a disease called consumption which has swept through the community. Lucas is grief-stricken and filled with guilt. He might have saved his mother, who was the last to die, if only he had listened to news of a strange cure for this deadly disease.
Unable to manage the family farm by himself, Lucas finds work as an apprentice to Doc Beecher, doctor, dentist, barber and undertaker. Doc amputates a leg as easily as he pulls a tooth, yet when it comes to consumption, he remains powerless, unwilling to try the cure he calls nonsense. Lucas can't accept Doc's disbelief, and he joins others in the dark ritual they believe is their only hope. The startling results teach Lucas a great deal about fear, desperation, and the scientific reasoning that offers hope for a true cure.
The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
“It is 1849, and 12-year-old Lucas watches his entire family die from consumption...Readers will experience a period when even a doctor's knowledge was very limited, and through Lucas's eyes, will come to realize how fear and desperation can make people willing to try almost anything.” —Starred, School Library Journal
“A fascinating story . . . Readers will experience a period when even a doctor's knowledge was very limited, and through Lucas's eyes, will come to realize how fear and desperation can make people willing to try almost anything.” —Starred, School Library Journal
“Skillfully gives readers enough historical information to see the reasoning behind the macabre practice [to cure consumption] and creates in Lucas a flesh and blood boy going through a most difficult time.” —Booklist
“The pace . . . is brisk in spite of a wealth of detail that not only establishes the setting but exposes beliefs and attitudes of the day regarding health, hygiene, and witchcraft.” —The Horn Book
“Conveys with feeling how desperation and ignorance can lend plausibility to the wildest tales.” —Kirkus Reviews