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Another book set during the Great San Francisco Earthquake.
Phillip can’t sleep. He probably could if silly Buster would stop barking and the horses would settle down. As it is, Phillip figures he’d better go check on the horses. After all, something might be wrong down there, and it wouldn’t due to have his father’s livery business damaged.
Phillip makes his way to the stables. Nothing’s wrong – the horses are just spooked. Wonder why that could be? And the mice are acting strangely, too, dashing around and out into the street like a cat’s on their tails. Only there’s no cat. Strange…
Suddenly, the world tilts. Nothing’s where it ought to be – the walls and floors are all breaking up and the screams of frightened horses are filling the air.
What is happening? Will the horses be alright? And is this affecting the whole city???
I thought that the family relationships in Earthquake! were excellent. Take Phillip’s little brother, Chester, for instance; he’s the tiniest bit of a scalawag and occasionally annoying, but Phillip never treats him meanly or thinks negatively of him. Phillip’s mother cares very passionately for her family. Instead of breaking down when her home is destroyed, she hugs Phillip and tells him “Remember, darling. We are all safe… Nothing – nothing – else matters.” [pg. 20] Phillip’s father prioritizes moving the family to safety, but trusts enough in Phillip’s maturity to leave him behind to protect the family business. Phillip bears this responsibility capably.
After Phillip spent a tense night with the horses, his father returned and informs him that the fire is so close that they must abandon the horses and seek to save their own lives. Having already risked his life to have stayed with the horses this long, Phillip vehemently disagrees with his father’s plan, insisting that they try to save the horses. It’s said in this scene that Phillip ‘screamed’ at his father, but it is unclear whether this is out of anger, or if that is the only way he can make himself heard due to the proximity of the fire. Phillip ends up freeing all of the horses, shooing them out into the street, nearly causing a stampede, and eventually herding them all out of town with his father.
To give the readers an idea of how tough one boy, Bobby Hunt, is, Phillip describes him as “the Bobby Hunt who used words like gad! and Jehoshaphat! right in school. The Bobby Hunt who tied broken glass to his kite strings to cut off everybody else’s kites in the sky. The Bobby Hunt who kicked the blind cocker spaniel when he thought nobody was looking.” [pg. 16] Although formerly uninterested in getting to know Bobby because he was so unpleasant, Phillip makes an effort to be friendly when he learns that Bobby’s parents died in a fire. They become half-way friends.
When the fire is almost upon the stables, Phillip says ‘Great Scott!’ I personally don’t have a problem with this phrase, but the writer said that by using these words he ‘cursed’. Just so’s you know.
After the earthquake, the stairs collapse under Phillip’s father. When it does so, it is said that he used an oath, but no actual words are given.
Conclusion. Good. While The Earth Dragon Awakes gave a taste of the wider panic and destruction of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Earthquake! describes its effect on one family. Purchase a copy here.