Nell of Branford Hall was like finding a little jewel. First and foremost, with no draggy parts nor dull characters, it was a pleasure to read. Then I was impressed with how it sprinkled in just a snippet of the Glorious Revolution, the Royal Society and other English history. But of course, the main course here is the plague...
It started with rumors that the dreaded disease was in Amsterdam and would get to England eventually. By the time Nell makes her first visit to London the plague has arrived. While there she has a major transportation problem. Her carriage wheel breaks and when she and an escort go in search of a hackney coach to hire they discover they are in the most disease ridden area of the city. Oh, the sites she sees! Ghastly. With great relief she finally returns to Branford Hall. But alas, the plague arrives in her beloved Branford Village. The villagers concoct a plan to deal with the plague. But will Nell’s dearest friend, Kate, survive?
The one oddity to me is that Nell’s uncle, a doctor, knows with certainty that the disease is spread by fleas. I believe this wasn't figured out until after the fact. But I'll say this, young readers will never again think of the plague without thinking of fleas.
Ages 10 and up
Activity: Play medieval doctor. Try to diagnose and cure three patients. Read about their symptoms and then decide what treatment to prescribe.