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The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
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The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

by Laurence Yep

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Over the years the earth has moved many times under San Francisco. But it has been thirty-eight years since the last strong earthquake. People have forgotten how bad it can be. But soon they will remember.

Based on actual events of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and told from the alternating perspectives of two young friends, the earth dragon awakes


Over the years the earth has moved many times under San Francisco. But it has been thirty-eight years since the last strong earthquake. People have forgotten how bad it can be. But soon they will remember.

Based on actual events of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and told from the alternating perspectives of two young friends, the earth dragon awakes chronicles the thrilling story of the destruction of a city, and the heroes that emerge in its wake.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
I must start by stating that Laurence Yep is one of my favorite authors for children's books and this book has not changed my mind in any way. This is a story of the San Francisco Earthquake that happened in 1906. All of the characters in two families are introduced to the reader by page seven, giving the reader an early understanding of how situations are looked at differently. The Travis family is a wealthy family who hire Ah Sing to be their houseboy. Ah Sing and his son Chin live in tenement housing. At dawn on April 18, 1906, the earthquake happens. As the table moves, boxes fall, and possessions crash to the floor, Ah Sing tells his son that the Earth Dragon must be scratching. His son replies, " He must really have an itch." The story takes the reader day-by-day telling about the tragedies and strengths of people who were too determined to give up and leave the city. After the great fire dies out and everyone has a chance to reflect on what has happened and assess their losses, Ah Sing is told by many that he may not go back to where he lived before the earthquake. Mr. Travis explains to Ah Sing that the Chinese people can own their own land and build a new Chinatown in Hunter's Point. The characters in this story learn many lessons—how disasters bring out the best and worse in people, how heroes are made from ordinary people, and how people find strength from within that they never knew they had to start over and rebuild their lives. Yep is an excellent writer and writes this story about the different perspectives of two young friends. I highly recommend this book. 2006, HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 12.
—Kathie M. Josephs
School Library Journal
Gr 3-7-Yep looks at the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 from two points of view. Chin is a young Chinese immigrant whose father is a "houseboy" for a prominent banker and his family. He has become friendly with young Henry Travis, the banker's son, through their interest in low-brow but exciting penny dreadfuls. The stories depict heroic people doing heroic things and, while both boys appreciate their fathers, they certainly do not regard them as heroes. Not, that is, until the Earth Dragon roars into consciousness one spring morning, tearing the city asunder and making heroes out of otherwise ordinary men. Yep's research is exhaustive. He covers all the most significant repercussions of the event, its aftershocks, and days of devastating fires, and peppers the story with interesting true-to-life anecdotes. The format is a little tedious-one chapter visits Henry's affluent neighborhood, the next ventures to Chin's home in Chinatown, and back again-and the "ordinary heroes" theme is presented a bit heavy-handedly. Throughout the text, the boys compare their fathers to Wyatt Earp. But the story as a whole should appeal to reluctant readers. Its "natural disaster" subject is both timely and topical, and Yep weaves snippets of information on plate tectonics and more very neatly around his prose. A solid supplemental choice.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Eight-year-old Henry Travis and nine-year-old Chin, son of the family houseboy, experience the events of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 that destroyed both the Travis's wealthy home and the Chin's tenement apartment. Yep intersperses the fiction of Henry and Chin's experiences with short chapters of facts about the earthquake and subsequent fire. This is a timely reminder of a historical disaster that turned over 2000 acres of city into a wasteland. Each chapter is headed with a time and place to help less than proficient readers keep track of the narrative strands. Simple sentence structure and the use of present tense throughout make this a very accessible introduction. With little character development, the focus is on the what rather than the who. Still, this is solid historical fiction full of details about the times and backed up with an afterword explaining the author's connection and suggesting sources for further reading. It is notable especially for the attention paid to the experience of San Francisco's Chinese immigrants, and a good choice for reluctant readers. (Historical fiction. 3-6)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.25(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Earth Dragon Awakes

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
By Laurence Yep

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Laurence Yep
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060275251

Chapter One

Early evening
Tuesday, April 17, 1906
San Francisco

It is early evening in San Francisco. Streetlights come on. People hurry home. No one knows about the danger below.

Underneath their feet, the earth begins to stir.

7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 17, 1906
Travis household
Sacramento Street area

At that moment, the Travis family is too busy to worry. Henry's parents are going to the opera.

Henry's mother calls from upstairs, "Ah Sing, have you seen my silk shawl?"

Mr. Travis bellows, "Ah Sing, I need a new shirt. You've shrunk another one."

Mrs. Travis pats her husband's belly affectionately. "Don't blame Ah Sing, dear. It's time for a diet."

"I am not fat," Mr. Travis protests. "My stomach is as solid as the earth." His belly shows through the open hole on his shirt. It jiggles when he moves. "It's all Ah Sing's fault. He does something to my shirts. And that's why I keep losing buttons."

"Don't change shirts, dear," Mrs. Travis says. "We don't have time. Mr. Caruso will be so disappointed if you show up late for his Don Jose."

"I would rather go to the roller-skating carnival," Mr. Travis grumbles. "They'regiving out a thousand-dollar prize for the best costume."

"I wish we could go roller-skating, too," says Henry. He was eager to try out his new skates. He'd gotten them for Easter two days before.

"We'll have a picnic next Sunday," Mrs. Travis suggests.

"Enrico Caruso should be grateful if I don't go tonight." Mr. Travis yawns. "I'm so tired from work. I'll just nap there. Even his bellowing won't keep me awake."

"If his singing doesn't, my elbow will," teases Mrs. Travis. "I had Ah Sing sharpen it today." She jabs him in the side.

Mr. Travis rubs his ribs. "That's why I need padding there."

"Maybe I could go to the skating carnival with Ah Sing," Henry says hopefully.

"I know you're dying to try your new skates," his mother says, "but the carnival's not for children."

Ah Sing and his son, Chin, come upstairs. Ah Sing is the Travises' houseboy. He cleans and cooks and helps around the house.

Chin has the cloak. Ah Sing has the sewing basket.

"Henry, help Ah Sing find the button," Mr. Travis orders.

Ah Sing has helped Mr. Travis get ready many times. "I got plenty," Ah Sing says. "I sweep. I find. I keep." From his pocket, he takes out a matching button. On his coat, he has stuck a needle with thread. It is the right color.

Ah Sing is like the captain of a ship in a storm. He tells Henry and Chin to hold Mr. Travis's shirt closed while he sews the button on.

Henry winks at Chin. Chin is nine and Henry is eight. They have become good friends. Though Chin has been in America for only two years, he already speaks English better than his father.

Suddenly Henry's pet dog, Sawyer, begins to howl.

Mr. Travis scrunches up his face. "You should take Sawyer. He can sing with Caruso."

"He's been doing that all day. I don't know what's wrong with him. We took him to the vet," Mrs. Travis says. "He's perfectly healthy."

Henry puts his dog in his room. Then he returns to help his parents some more. He fetches his mother's beaded purse. His father misplaces his top hat twice. Both times, Henry finds it.

Ah Sing, Chin and Henry manage to steer them to the front door. Mrs. Travis stops on the threshold. She picks an umbrella that matches her gown.

"There isn't a rain cloud in the sky," protests Mr. Travis.

"You never know when an umbrella will come in handy," his wife says calmly.

By the doorway, they have not one but two umbrella stands. They are filled with umbrellas.

"You have too many choices," Mr. Travis teases. "If your collection were smaller, it wouldn't take so long to pick one."

"If you didn't lose them, I wouldn't need so many," Mrs. Travis says. She finally selects two.

Somehow Ah Sing, Chin and Henry get them on their way.

Ah Sing begins to pick up the discarded shawls, capes and cloaks from the floor. He tells the boys to do their schoolwork.

Henry is on Easter vacation, but he has homework. Chin does not attend American school yet, but he hopes to go soon. At the moment, he goes to Chinese school in Chinatown. Because Chinese school does not celebrate Easter, he would normally have gone tonight. However, the Travises had asked Ah Sing and Chin to watch Henry.

Sawyer crouches in a corner of Henry's bedroom. He is terrified. Henry makes a place for Sawyer on his bed. Then, looking out the window, Henry begins his art assignment. He has to draw his neighborhood.

Chin lies on the floor and starts his essay about his home in China. He has almost too much to write. The Americans make it difficult for a Chinese man to bring his family to America. It has been hard enough for just Chin to come. He had to study for months and months before he got on the boat to America. He needed to know everything. He had to memorize every house in his village, every field, every window, every tree, every animal.

The immigration officials spent a week asking him questions. If he had made a mistake, they would have assumed he was lying. They would have sent him back to China. They would have sent his father back, too.

Chin would have liked to go home. But his father's salary is very important. An American dollar is worth so much more in China. Chin's father can support his mother, his grandparents and several other relatives.

Henry finishes his picture quickly. The wooden houses press against one another. They are all three stories high. The front doors are all one story from the ground. The houses all have bay windows. Except for the paint, they all look the same.


Excerpted from The Earth Dragon Awakes by Laurence Yep Copyright © 2006 by Laurence Yep. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Laurence Yep is the acclaimed author of more than sixty books for young people and a winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. His illustrious list of novels includes the Newbery Honor Books Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate; The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee; and The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island, which he cowrote with his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, and was named a New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.

Mr. Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife, the writer Joanne Ryder.

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