The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

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 chronicles the thrilling story of the destruction of a city, and the heroes that emerge in its wake.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060008468
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/25/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 265,519
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.26(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About 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.

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.
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The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
shelf-employed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is Tuesday, April 17, 1906, and two boys separate for the evening. Chin heads for home in his Chinatown tenement building, riding the cable car with his father, Chinese "houseboy", Ah Sing. Henry settles in the for the night at his Nob Hill home, now that his parents are home from the opera. Neither is aware of the earthquake that will strike within hours. The Earth Dragon Awakes chronicles the story of the great San Francisco earthquake and fire through the parallel stories of Henry and Chin.CRITICAL ANALYSISThe Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 is a historical fiction novel for young readers, by Newbery Honor winner, Laurence Yep. The short chapters are titled with a time, date, and location stamp, ¿5:12 A.M., Wednesday, April 18, 1906, Chin and Ah Sing¿s tenement, Chinatown.¿ The story line is clear and linear, beginning on the eve of the great quake, and ending ten days later.Yep¿s genius is in telling parallel stories of the two friends, Henry Travis, son of a White banker, and Chin, the son of Henry¿s houseboy, Ah Sing. When the story begins, Ah Sing and Chin are watching Henry while his parents attend the opera. As the Chinese pair leaves Nob Hill, their tale begins to diverge from the Travis¿. Chin and his father travel by streetcar to Chinatown, where, although it is now midnight, the streets are still bustling as Chinese workers attend to their errands after a long day¿s work. Chin and Ah Sing purchase Chinese newspapers and buy apples. Ah Quon, their neighbor, is leaving the temple. Authentic Chinese names are used throughout. Other cultural markers are less obvious, but no less authentic. In the tenement, Chin can hear ¿the clacking of mahjong tiles,¿ and ¿twisted cable-car tracks look like the strokes of a mysterious, dreadful word.¿ (A footnote explains that a Chinese character is representative of a word)The book¿s title, The Earth Dragon Awakes, is suggestive of this culture¿s historical usage of folkloric creatures. When Ah Quon warns that the Earth Dragon is upset, Ah Sing notes, ¿The Earth Dragon has shaken the city before,¿ ¿We¿re still holding on to his back.¿ Chin silently asks the ¿Earth Dragon to keep his temper.¿ A dragon symbol denotes each new chapter. In another instance of personification, ¿fear twists inside Chin like a snake.¿A perfect example of the dichotomy of the American and Chinese American cultures lies within the story itself. Western literature is typically conflict and resolution. The Travis family¿s story in the face of the disaster is one of resoluteness. At first they attempt to stay in their destroyed neighborhood, willing to suffer deprivation and hardship. Only when their situation becomes untenable, do they begin moving ¿ vowing to rebuild and return. The focus of their resolution is to conquer their hardship. Ah Sing and Chin¿s goal, however, is to adapt and to continue. As soon as the disaster befalls, they immediately decide to press on to safety, placing survival and continuance foremost. They are decidedly adaptable in their quest ¿ even taking on a short job as wagon loaders to earn money for their ship passage to safety. Conquering the Earth Dragon would not be a culturally authentic outlook for Ah Sing and Chin.A modernizing aside to the text is the addition of a small footnote in the last chapter. After reading that twenty thousand people have fled San Francisco by boat, and 225,000 more by train, the reader is directed to a footnote, ¿Never before have so many people left an American city in peacetime ¿ until Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.¿ The addition of this small footnote serves as a reminder of the huge proportions of both tragedies, but also of the possibility for recovery. As one Horn Book reviewer noted, the book¿s theme of ¿ordinary heroes¿ is a bit didactic, ¿These are ordinary people Henry sees every day. ¿They¿re acting just like heroes,¿ he says to his mother.¿ This is a minor flaw, however, and children will
plashyreads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked the flow and tone of the story -- it was exciting, yet poignant.
Catnelson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eight-year-old Henry and nine-year-old Chin love to read about heroes in popular "penny dreadful" novels, until they both witness real courage while trying to survive the 1906 San Francisco earthquake
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty easy to read and was very interesting.Though at some points I couldn't tell which character was which I figured it out in the end. This book was a Texas bluebonnet award nominee in 2007- 2008 and was one of my school's favorites. I truly enjoyed this book and I hope you will too.