Lizzie Newton and the San Francisco Earthquake (History Speaks: Picture Books Plus Reader’s Theater)

Lizzie Newton and the San Francisco Earthquake (History Speaks: Picture Books Plus Reader's Theater)

By: Stephen Krensky
Illustrated by: Jeremy Tugeau
Publisher: Lerner Classroom
Publication Date: August 2010
ISBN: 978-0761339441
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 2010

Ten-year-old Lizzie Norton awoke with a start and sat up in bed. She had been dreaming that she was on a train that was lurching up and down on its tracks, yet all the while the shaking was real. Her eyes widened in the darkness of the morning. She ran to her Grammy’s room only to find her injured and covered with plaster. It was not safe inside so they hurriedly put on some clothes and went into the streets of San Francisco where a horrible scene of destruction awaited them. Many of the buildings “lay crumbled in heaps,” while flames leapt from the rooftops of others. People were frantically trying to leave the city.

Lizzie was afraid and didn’t know quite what to do, but when “an ambulance wagon came clattering down the street,” she hailed it. As Grammy boarded the ambulance, she told Lizzie to go home. She soon was on foot headed for home. The aftershocks were frightening and startling “cracks and holes were still opening near Lizzie’s feet.” She spotted firemen digging through piles of bricks. She could hear the cries of people beneath the rubble as the men struggled to save them. The fires were rampant, communication was nonexistent, and the water pipes had burst. They encouraged Lizzie to head for home, but when she arrived, her house too had been partially destroyed. She had to keep moving on to St. Francis in Union Square. Would she find her parents when she got there? Would she even survive the trek?

This is a stunningly realistic, fictionalized portrait of Lizzie, a young girl who survived the San Francisco Earthquake. The storyline is exciting and even the most reluctant reader will strive to reach the end of the book to find out what happened to young Lizzie. The full color, full page artwork captures the essence of the horrifying event and subtly conveys a lot of information the text does not discuss. For example, in a street scene we see cracks in the earth, people clustered in groups, while others have gathered up some of their belongings and are escaping on foot or in a horse drawn wagon. This edition introduces the student to Reader’s Theater. It gives full instructions on how a performance goes, what to do before, and after the production. The eight-page script can be reproduced for the six performers. A link to the sound effects is given.

Quill says: Undoubtedly, this amazing book would be a unique, fun, highly educational way to introduce your classroom to Reader’s Theater!

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