Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Into the firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906

Into the firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906

Deborah Hopkinson
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 12
Random House, 2006   ISBN: 978-0375836527

When Nick Dray’s grandmother dies he finds himself being sent, against his will, to an orphanage. Nick is not the kind of boy who likes to have decisions made for him so he up and runs away, heading for San Francisco where he hopes to build a new life for himself far from the cotton fields of Texas.

At first Nick fares poorly, unable to get a job, find a place to stay, or get enough food to eat. Then Nick meets the owner of a stationer’s shop, Pat Patterson. Pat has a dog called Shakespeare - Shake for short – and as the dog takes to Nick so well, Pat decides to give Nick work and a place to live.

Pat soon discovers how lucky he was to meet Nick for Nick turns out to be a very loyal and brave friend. Pat has to go to Oakland for a few days and he leaves Nick in charge of the shop and of Shake. When a devastating earthquake rocks the city, Nick does all he can to keep Shake safe. The boy also takes on the care of a little girl and her heavily pregnant mother. Together they all try to find a place in the blazing city that is safe and where the flames of the raging fires will not get them.

Deborah Hopkinson has beautifully woven together fiction and fact in this historical fiction novel. Readers will get a vivid picture of what it was like to be in the city during the 1906 earthquake and will come to appreciate what a desperate and dangerous time it was. In addition they will experience what it was like to be a poor child who only had his courage and determination to carry him through.