Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Day that Changed America: Earthquake!

A Day that Changed America: Earthquake!

Shelley Tanaka
Illustrator:  David Craig 
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 10 and up
Hyperion, 2004   ISBN: 978-0786818822

Let us take a trip back in time to a day which changed thousands of lives - April 18th, 1906. We are in San Francisco and it is early morning when the earth begins to shake, to rock, and to tremble. Dishes crash to the floor, doors jam shut, windows smash and on many streets whole buildings tip crazily, fall over, or sink into the ground. Huge cracks open up scarring the earth.

Let us meet a boy from Chinatown called Hugh who finds himself alone and without a protector, a girl called Doris who wants to go to the park for a picnic until she sees that downtown San Francisco is on fire, a boy called Sol who can hardly believe his eyes when he walks in the streets, and another boy called DeWitt who watches policemen trying to dig people out of the rubble. It is through their eyes that we see what it was like to be in San Francisco on this most momentous and tragic of days. It is from them that we discover what it must have been like to experience the earthquake and then all the horrors that followed.

For, though the earthquake was in itself a dreadful event, it was what happened afterwards that really made the lives of these four young people difficult. Snapped electrical wires and broken gas mains are a deadly combination and soon fires were burning and spreading all over the city. The water mains also had been broken by the earthquake and therefore the firemen had a terrible time trying to find sufficient water to put out the fires. Roads were impassable, services ground to a halt, and many people could not live in their dangerously damaged homes.

Through the eyes of Hugh, Doris, DeWitt and Sol, Shelly Tanaka tells a touching and powerful story of what it must have been like to live through this life changing experience. In addition to the children?s stories we are given an enormous amount of information about this extraordinary event and about earthquakes in general. Full of photographs showing the people and places affected by the earthquake, maps and illustrations, this superb book is sure to fascinate historians of all ages.