Dear America: A City Tossed and Broken

Dear America: A City Tossed and Broken

4.0 9
by Judy Blundell

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From National Book Award-winning author Judy Blundell, a thrilling account of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. When Minnie Bonner's father disappears after losing the Bonners' Philadelphia tavern, the wealthy gentleman Edward Sump, led by his avaricious wife, offers Minnie a chance to work as a lady's maid to support her family. The Sumps have grand plans,


From National Book Award-winning author Judy Blundell, a thrilling account of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. When Minnie Bonner's father disappears after losing the Bonners' Philadelphia tavern, the wealthy gentleman Edward Sump, led by his avaricious wife, offers Minnie a chance to work as a lady's maid to support her family. The Sumps have grand plans, grander than the city of Philadelphia can offer, however, and decide to move to San Francisco -- the greatest city in the west. But when a powerful earthquake strikes, Minnie finds herself the sole survivor among them. After the dust settles, Minnie discovers a bag belonging to the Sumps filled with cash and papers that could drastically change her fortune. With no one else to claim it, Minnie has turned into an heiress overnight. Wealth comes at a price, though, and she is soon wrapped up in a deception that leads her down a dangerous path. As the aftermath of the earthquake ravages the city, Minnie continues to maintain her new identity. That is, until a mysterious but familiar stranger appears.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"More than a supplement to classroom textbooks, this series is an imaginative, solid entree into American history." --PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"An impressive series that will challenge students to make connections from prominent historical events to relevant life situations. . . . A wonderful asset to the classroom as well as to home libraries." --CHILDREN'S BOOK REVIEW SERVICE

"Engaging accessible historical fiction." --SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

"The Dear America diaries represent the best of historical fiction for any age."

Children's Literature - Bonita Herold
After losing the family tavern in Philadelphia, Minnie's father disappears, leaving the family destitute. With reluctance and very little choice, Minnie's mother opts to "sell" Minnie into servitude. She becomes a lady's maid to Lily, the daughter of the newly-rich and impossibly-snotty Mrs. Sump. In this position, Minnie must leave everything she knows to move across the country to San Francisco, where Mr. Sump—and, for Minnie, loneliness—await. Once there, Minnie marvels at the beauty of the bay but nonetheless remains heartbroken. And then she unearths a secret that may change her life. Before she can think things through, an earthquake shatters her world. What will become of her? Should she sink to the Sumps' level to survive? Should she pretend to be someone other than she is? In an intriguing young adult novel, Blundell presents Minnie Bonner, a fourteen-year-old girl faced with life-altering choices in the aftermath of tragedy. Blundell, an award-winning author, holds her own with this thrilling story about Minnie during the San Francisco 1906 earthquake. As part of the "Dear America" series, this excellent supplement to a classroom textbook represents the best of historical fiction for any age; readers will not be able to put the book down. Reviewer: Bonita Herold
VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
Minnie, only fourteen, is leaving one shattering situation for another. Her father, victim of a crooked card game, lost their family's tavern to the prominent Sump family, and his subsequent disappearance leaves Minnie and her mother suddenly bereft. For income, Minnie must serve as a lady's maid for the Sumps' daughter, Lily, so she resentfully accompanies them to San Francisco. Moving into their mansion is hectic, allowing Minnie to overhear Mr. Sump's dishonest deals, and to see his ledger containing her father's swindle. Later, her luggage missing, she borrows Lily's nightgown and wakes to the 1906 earthquake. The Sumps perish, but their attorney soon appears—and assumes Minnie is Lily (from the nightgown), with circumstances hardly conducive to explanations. Minnie ponders assuming Lily's heiress identity, but after the appearance of her father, seeking her and Sump's records to recoup his business, and a Philadelphia thief wanting the Sump fortune, she regains her sense of self and schemes to thwart the con while saving her family. This large-print, fast-paced Dear America novel is narrated by Minnie via diary entries, and will captivate younger females. The earthquake's descriptions are chilling, with depictions of dazed citizens' varying positive and negative reactions, solidarity fighting numerous fires, and overwhelming commitment to rebuilding a stronger, less corrupt city equally compelling. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett
VOYA - Twila A. Sweeney
Even though this is about Minnie, Lily seems the more intriguing character. She was either ignored or criticized, and her life was sad and hard, shocking Minnie. Lily takes Minnie's clothes, planning to wear them when eloping with Andrew, the Philadelphia con who only wants her father's money. It would have been nice to learn more of Lily's life, but overall the story was exciting, and its pictures and author information were especially interesting. Reviewer: Twila A. Sweeney, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—When her father loses the family business in a series of bad bets, 14-year-old Minette Bonner must work off the debt as a lady's maid for a wealthy family, moving with them from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Minnie soon finds that her own family's losses are much more complicated than she originally thought. The Sumps, however, throw around money to assure their place in San Francisco society. Minnie arrives, along with Mrs. Sump and her daughter, Lily, just in time to overhear secrets that help explain her own family's troubles and to experience the 1906 earthquake. The quake throws the world into chaos and offers Minnie new choices, including the chance to masquerade as Lily in order to save her own family. When viewed through the lens of a story about a girl's new life in a new city, this novel fits with a middle school audience. When considering the complex socioeconomic and political issues at work, however, it will be appreciated by older students. An interesting piece of historical fiction and a solid purchase.—Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA
Kirkus Reviews
National Book Award winner Blundell (What I Saw and How I Lied, 2008) explores the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires in this well-crafted, literary page turner. Resourceful, frank and observant, with a wry sense of humor, 14-year-old Minnie must take work as a lady's maid for the unscrupulous and ostentatious Sumps, who are moving to San Francisco, when her beloved and restless father gambles away the family's Philadelphia tavern. "I'd rather wash the greasiest pots in the tavern. I'd rather clean the fish," she confides in her diary. Mrs. Chester Sump, her remote, 16-year-old daughter Lily and Minnie arrive in San Francisco on April 17, 1906, just in time for the biggest society event of the season--Enrico Caruso's appearance in Carmen. At 5:12 the next morning, a massive earthquake tears through the city. The author deftly incorporates true events, circumstances and key historical figures into the rapidly unfolding fictional plot, in which Minnie is thrown into a moral dilemma after she is mistaken for someone else. Blundell achieves an impressive balance, portraying the catastrophic destruction and fight to save the city while imbuing the story with elements of mystery, melodrama and a Mark Twain–like sensibility. As Minnie uncovers truly corrupt and greedy goings-on, perpetrated by characters such as "Slippery Andy," and also witnesses heroic firemen in action, her sense of what it means to live with integrity crystallizes. Exciting, suspenseful, absorbing and informative. (epilogue, historical note, archival photographs, author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-13)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Dear America Series
Sold by:
Scholastic, Inc.
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Judy Blundell's WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED is the 2008 winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. As Jude Watson, she is the author of several titles in the New York Times bestselling 39 Clues series as well as the bestselling Star Wars: Last of the Jedi and Jedi Quest series. She lives in Katonah, New York.

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Dear America: A City Tossed and Broken 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the complexity of the plot and settihs and the adventures waiting in a city tossed and broken
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like the epilogue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is ok but she could have done more active stuff to save Lilly like grab her and run outside or other stuff like that
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My opinyon
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I guessit is good sounds great lots of detial thoi,ugh whos the lucy giy