Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lizzie Newton and the San Francisco Earthquake

Lizzie Newton and the San Francisco Earthquake
written by Stephen Krensky; illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau
(Millbrook Press) 2011
Source: Mebane Public Library

On the morning of April 18, 1906, ten-year-old Lizzie Newton feels like she is on a train. She thinks she is shaking from a bad dream, but it is actually her room that is shaking. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is in full force. Lizzie is in her grandmother's apartment tending to her sick grandmother. A piece of the ceiling has fallen on her grandmother's head and she needs care. Lizzie and her grandmother rush through the chaos of aftershocks and fires in the streets. An ambulance wagon has room for one more patient. Lizzie leaves her grandmother in the care of the driver and goes to find her parents. Lizzie wanders through the streets looking for her parents. Her apartment building has partly fallen. Fortunately, Lizzie remembers a piece of advice from her father that will keep her safe.

I was never particularly interested in the Civil War until I read a piece of historical fiction titled The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. I've been to Gettysburg three times since reading Shaara's classic book and read several other books about this battle. Historical fiction is a great way for students to become interested in a real event. You could read about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, or earthquakes in general, in a form of nonfiction like a textbook or a trade book. However, for some students it takes a text where they can make personal connections in order to embrace the topic. Lizzie Newton is a character who will connect with young readers and while they continue reading to find out what happens to her, author Stephen Krensky sneaks in bits of facts that add to the reader's background knowledge. Lizzie Newton is a short piece of text, so reluctant readers will have a better chance of being engaged as well. Krensky also includes a reader's theater script of the story, and back matter to aid the reader in their continued research of earthquakes.

Click on this link for a look inside the book.


  1. I agree. Historical fiction is a great way to get kids interested in history. For another view of the San Francisco earthquake that includes geology and Chinese-American culture, check out Laurence Yep's The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 (2006 Harper Colliins)http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2008/07/earth-dragon-awakes.html Lizzie Newton and the San Francisco Earthquake also sounds like a good title. The RT script sounds like a great addition!

  2. I need to find a copy of The Earth Dragon. Thanks for the tip, Lisa!


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