"Earthquake at Dawn"

Earthquake at Dawn by Kristiana Gregory: Book Cover


Book: Earthquake at Dawn

Author: Kristiana Gregory

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, new edition in 2003

ISBN-13: 9780152046811

ISBN-10: 015204681X

Language level: 2 (a few common euphemisms and a couple of instances of the word “God” as an exclamation)

Reading level: Ages: 12-16

Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Gregory, Kristina. Earthquake at Dawn (published in 1992 by Harcourt Brace and Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Dr., Orlando, FL 32887). We have read several books by Kristiana Gregory. Her first, Jenny of the Tetons, was an interesting story but was laced with filthy language. Her two books about Jimmy Spoon, were fairly good. And her “Prairie River” series is excellent. Therefore, when I saw this work of historical fiction about the famous 1906 San Francisco, CA, earthquake and fire in the consignment section of a homeschool bookstore, I picked it up, being familiar with the author’s name. Since then, I have seen it listed in two homeschooling catalogues.

The narrator, fifteen-year old Daisy Valentine who is a servant and traveling companion to the heroine, is fictional, but many of the characters in the book are real, especially the heroine, photographer Edith Irvine, her father, two famous people whom she meets in San Francisco following the earthquake, writer Jack London and actor John Barrymore, both of whose experiences during that time are chronicled in their writings, as well as some of the other people such as the Somerses, the Westlakes, both mentioned in Edith’s diary, and even Mary Exa whose 1906 letter to relatives was used by the author. As to language, it is not too bad–a couple of times when “God” is used as an interjection and a few common euphemisms (gosh, golly, tarnation).

For the sake of “realism,” I suppose, Gregory did have to go into some detail about going to the bathroom under adverse conditions and what a baby does to nurse from its mother. And there is one disturbing scene where a man whose legs are trapped by rubble in the wake of a rapidly rushing fire asks to be shot rather than burn and is granted his request. I suppose that things like that probably did happen, but I really question their mention in what is intended as “juvenile fiction.” Otherwise this is a very readable with little objectionable material in it.

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