The Devil’s Paintbox, by Victoria McKernan, is a historical fiction novel that takes place just after the American Civil War. The story follows Aiden Lynch, a 16-year-old boy, and his journey with his sister to from Kansas to Seattle on an Oregon Trail wagon train.
During the course of his journey, he meets a tribe of Native Americans who are threatened by smallpox, or the Devil’s paintbox. This book paints a clear picture of life out west, especially the absurd juxtaposition of the defeat of slavery with the callous disregard for the Native people. McKernan does not glorify the time period at all, but the book always avoids becoming overly dark or depressing, even when things are at their bleakest. Continue reading