Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 (We the People)

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 (We the People)

Marc Tyler Nobleman
For ages 7 to 10
Compass Point Books, 2007   ISBN: 0756524601

It was not unusual for San Francisco to experience minor earthquakes and at first Elsie Cross did not think much of the earthquake which hit early in the morning of April 18th, 1906. But this time the earthquake became more and more violent as time passed and it seemed to go on forever. As she watched, Elsie’s home was shaken to bits and her father was thrown to the ground twice as he tried to help his family members.

When it was over forty-five to sixty seconds later the family went outside and saw that they were surrounded by collapsed and collapsing buildings. With good reason Mr. Cross began to worry about all the fireplaces, stoves, and lamps which might have been lit when the earthquake hit. Surely fire could be a big problem in the near future.

Mr. Cross’s fears were justified. Not long after the main quake and subsequent tremors hit the great city, fires began to break out. Because the underground water pipes had been broken by the earth’s upheaval, there was no way for the fire department to get water to the fires. Huge cracks in the ground and fallen debris made it hard for the fire department vehicles to get around the stricken city. It did not help that the fire chief, Dennis Sullivan, had died as a result of injuries sustained during the earthquake. For years Sullivan had told city officials that San Francisco was not adequately prepared for a major earthquake and for possible fires which could break out as a result of an earthquake. He made suggestions but his words were ignored. Now the city of San Francisco was paying a terrible price for ignoring the warnings that had been given.

In an effort to stop the spread of the fire city officials gave the order to use dynamite. The idea was that they would deprive the fire of fuel, they would starve it out. Unfortunately this method was not always successful and some of the explosions even caused new fires to break out.

This excellent title from the “We the People” series not only describes what took place on April 18th, 1906 and the days that followed, but it also gives readers some excellent background information about San Francisco and the precarious position it was in because of its proximity to the San Andreas fault. Readers will be able to see for themselves why so many things went wrong, why so many people died, and what could have been done to minimize the effects of the earthquake.