This book is #32 in The American Adventure Series. Set in 1906, the main characters live in St. Paul, Minnesota, but they take a vacation riding the railroad out west to San Francisco, California. Some historical events discussed included not only the massive earthquake in San Francisco which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, but also Enrico Caruso singing in the opera Carmen, the fires that spread following the earthquake and the general disdain some individuals held for the Chinese at that time. Some character issues addressed included adjusting to the addition of a step-parent following the loss of a parent, discrimination based on race, and how working together in a stressful circumstance can build bonds between individuals.
The description of the earthquake may be a bit scary to some of the younger listeners, but it is not sensationalized or written in a shock-factor manner. The main character falls out of bed, there's lots of shaking, some commotion, they're told to get into door frames and eventually move to outdoors because of the severity of the quake. The fear during tremors is described and it is mentioned that some people were injured and trapped in downed buildings, but the mentioned party is rescued. The family stays outdoors a couple nights and they watch a massive fire burning from a distance and later from close perspective. If you child is particularly fearful of natural disasters, you may want to paraphrase a little to move the plot along so they don't dwell on the scene too much, but that is just my suggestion that's helped us in the past.
This book is written at a level that should be enjoyed by 6-12 year olds. I always make it a point to read aloud the 2 paragraph "Note to Readers" before the first chapter because it reminds my children that these are fictional stories based on real events. I have learned a lot through these paragraphs. For instance, did you know that after the fire destroyed Chinatown, many city leaders had wanted to move Chinatown so that the valuable land could be given to others? There was apparently a great deal of racism against Chinese Americans in that time frame. Thankfully, U.S. and Chinese governments applied some pressure and Chinatown was rebuilt on its original location.
*To see other reviews in this series, click here.