Into the Firestorm, A Novel of San Francisco, 1906

  • Into the Firestorm, A Novel of San Francisco, 1906

March 11, 2008
Ages 9-12

"I believe I can just see you on the streets of that bright city."

Gran's gone now, but her words live on with Nicholas Dray, almost twelve, as he makes his way from the hot cotton fields to that Queen of Cities: San Francisco. Nick's on his own for the first time, with nowhere to turn. Then he meets jaunty, talkative Pat Patterson, owner of the most beautiful store-and the friendliest golden dog-in all the city. And for the first time in months, Nick feels safe. Safe in San Francisco.

But the year is 1906, the month is April, and early one morning the walls begin to shake. The floor begins to buckle. And the earth opens up. A devastating earthquake and then raging firestorms ravage the city, and Nick is right in the middle of it all. But for a young boy who's got few ties and nothing to lose, what's the right choice: escape to safety or stay-at deadly risk-to help others?

From acclaimed author Deborah Hopkinson comes a suspenseful and carefully researched novel of the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire and of one boy's heroic fight to survive it.


From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-The terror of the 1906 disaster is brought powerfully alive in this fast-paced tale. When 12-year-old Nick Dray's grandmother dies, he is placed in an orphanage. He runs away, leaving Texas for the bright lights of San Francisco. Once there, he talks his way into a job at a stationery store, which he guards while the owner is away on business. One morning, the boy is startled awake by the earthquake and decides he will try to save the man's most prized possessions, including his dog, Shake. Nick also helps his neighbors escape their badly damaged rooming house and leads them to the safety of Golden Gate Park. Readers will feel as if they're in the middle of the nonstop action. Descriptions of the rubble, fire, and chaos are vivid and detailed. The geography and history of the city are woven smoothly into the story, placing all of the action into context. Nick is a thoroughly developed protagonist, as are the supporting characters. There are also some thoughtful insights into the nature of catastrophes, such as Disaster like this, it's the poor who suffer the most.-Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist
Joining the spate of titles published in commemoration of the great earthquake's centenary, this engrossing tale takes Nicholas, a young Texas orphan newly arrived in San Francisco, on a heroic rescue mission through the largely uncontrolled fires that turned out to be more destructive than the quake itself. Falling in narrative and historical detail somewhere between Laurence Yep's Earth Dragon Awakes and William Lavender'sAftershocks (both 2006), this smoke-filled odyssey gives readers vivid glimpses of the disaster's scope, and, in Nicholas' encounters with his neighbors and other residents, wider insight into the range of human response to sudden catastrophe of any sort. Nicholas is an appealingly uncertain, unself-conscious protagonist, and his upward change of fortunes at the end seems well deserved. An afterword and a bibliography are appended. John Peters
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to theHardcover edition.


"Based on eyewitness accounts, the tale brings to life an event young readers will find fascinating."-Kirkus Reviews

"Middle graders in search of quick, entertaining historical fiction-ideal for book reports-should take a look."-The Bulletin

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan/Discussion Topics

Visit the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco's Exhibit on:
The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906

And don't miss the Eyewitness Accounts

MCEER University of Buffalo Earthquake Engineering: San Francisco Earthquake links

1906 San Francisco Earthquake Lesson Online

US Geological Society: Compare 1906 and 1989

USGS: The Great San Francisco Earthquake

Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco

Edison Newsreels: San Francisco Earthquake Aftermath

National Archives: San Francisco Earthquake