Copyright: 2002

Age: Junior High+


Twelve-year-old Clara's family boarding house is hit in the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. In the aftermath, Clara finds an orphaned baby boy on her porch steps. The baby has a note asking someone to take care of him. But things are not all that they seem. As Clara helps her family and friends recover from such a tragedy, she also takes it upon herself to find out the baby's story.

Sexuality: 1

A girl changes a baby's diaper and finds out it's a girl.
A girl hugs a boy.
A girl holds a boy's hand.
Mention of a woman holding a girl to her breast.
A man kisses his wife's hand.
A man and woman get engaged.
A young couple runs away to get married.

Violence: 5

A girl hits a man with a fireplace poker, breaking his arm.
A boy says that his parents died of influenza.
Many people have broken bones and injuries after an earthquake.
A woman is said to have given birth and then was quickly taken away before a fire could reach her.
People's homes are exploded to create fire breaks.
A man is said to have lifted a piano off his son's legs.
Many people die in an earthquake.
A man has nerve damage from breaking both legs from a shipwreck that killed his teenage son.
A woman is said to have an eye swollen shut.
A man dies because his bedroom ceiling falls down on him in an earthquake. A boy tries to dig him out, but says he is "stone cold."
Soldiers shoot looters.
The earthquake scares a girl whose books fall on top of her. She steps on glass and gets it stuck in her heel. She wonders if she leaves bloody footprints where she walks.
People are told not to use their stoves because they are exploding.
A girl's doll is decapitated.
A girl almost drowns trying to save an infant.
A girl is kidnapped and hit over the head by scary men.
A man says he should've killed a girl instead of leaving her to drown in a flooding cave.
A man shoots at a girl on the beach. (He misses her.)
A man knocks a woman to the ground (in a nonsexual way) and she receives a gash on her head.
A boy trembles in fear.
A girl thinks a baby is dead, but the baby has been drugged.
Two men use a baby as a shield and take her away from her parent and police.
A teenage girl slaps a man.
Two men are said to have beaten up a young couple.
A boy kicks a man in the back.
A man tries to punch a boy.
A teenage girl has a bruised face from being beaten up.
A young couple and baby are held at gunpoint.
A girl has nightmares about her kidnapping.
Men drown when their boat dash against rocks.

Language: 2

The aftermath of an earthquake is described as "a scene from hell."
"Wretched girl"
People are said to have cussed. One man says, "Damnation."
Many people cry out to God, without professing to be Christians. ("Oh Lord," "Thanks be to God," "Merciful heavens," "Thanks be to heaven," and "Lord save us.")

Christian Principles: None

All throughout the book, children think they hear or see their dead relatives. In the end, Clara attributes her heroism to hearing her dead brother's voice in her head. A boy prays for dead uncle, which is a pointless exercise.

Clara's father, since his accident, is said to have stopped praying. At one point he tells his daughter, "If you pray, pray for rain." He seems to be bitter against God, although God is never mentioned unless people are "calling out" to him in danger.

A woman outright disobeys her husband continually and is not submissive. Her daughter disobeys her as well. There seems to be a lack of a chain of command in any way.

Clara feels no remorse, but only gladness, when the kidnappers drown. She feels like they deserve it.

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