Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chapter Books - The Earth Dragon Awakes

The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 by Laurence Yep 2006

Yep has written a number of historical fictions usually centered on Asian cultural over the years along with other genres. Many I have read and found to be very good. This particular fiction is based on the historical facts about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Yep introduces us to two young boys and their families living in San Francisco at that time. One family that we meet is that of Chin and his father who works for Henry's family. Chin and his father came to America to earn money for their family back in China and live in Chinatown. Henry's father is a banker and lives in a wealthy neighborhood of San Francisco. Although Chin and Henry are best of friends, their lives are very different. As the earthquake strikes, Yep follows each boy and the effects the quake has on them and their respective neighbors and neighborhoods. Through Yep's writing style you can actually at times feel the urgency and helplessness many must have felt in the confusing and dangerous situation. Yep writes the story in a diary entry type format. However, the narration style changes throughout the book.

Although the story itself is very interesting and at times captivating, there are a number of “entries” that interrupt the flow. These interruptions come when the author turns from storytelling to an almost lecturing or teaching style. For example, in a single page entry Yep describes how the earthquake affects one particular street and its homes because of the area being built on a former landfill. The information is interesting, but is written more in an earth science lesson style that detracts from the story of Chin and Henry. Overall, the story is woven around social, economical, and cultural information which is told in a not-too-preachy tone. Even though the setting surrounds a tragic event, one comes away with a fairly good feeling about Chin and Henry’s situation. However, for adults it is a reminder of how prejudices and discrimination have had their claws in every society and time period. This is a good book, but I would not rate it as one of Yep’s better books.

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