Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

Laurence Yep
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 12
HarperCollins, 2006   ISBN: 978-0060275242

Henry Travis and Chin are good friends even though they come from very different backgrounds. Chin is the Travis' Chinese servant's son and he has only been in the United States for two years. Still, Chin's English is quite good now and he and Henry have good times together. They both love to read "penny dreadfuls," cheap adventure novels which their parents don't approve of. Both boys think their parents are rather boring and stodgy. They soon find out, however, that heroism can lie in the hearts of the most unexpected people.

Early on the morning of April 18th, 1906, a powerful earthquake shakes San Francisco. Both Henry's family and Chin's are forced out of their crumbing homes, both families find themselves living in the middle of a shaking, rumbling, burning nightmare. As the fires spread the families run ahead of the flames, trying to find a refuge where they will be safe. Both boys wonder how the other is doing and both discover that their parents put the heroes in the penny dreadfuls to shame.

Based on true accounts of what happened in San Francisco in 1906, this historical novel brings the terrible events of that disaster to life. The author not only describes what is happening to the two families and to the city around them, he also gives the earthquake itself a persona - the earth dragon. The effect of this is that the reader gets a real sense of how the earthquake happened and how, to the people who experienced it, it almost seemed to be a living thing.