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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is part of the “I Survived” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Leo Ross is an 11-year-old orphan living in San Francisco in 1906. He sells newspapers and thinks often of his dead father. Leo never met his grandfather, but Papa used to tell stories of Grandpop’s adventures while crossing the United States at age 16. Leo keeps a piece of gold in his pocket that Grandpop found when he first came to California.

Fletch, a street urchin and bully, hears that Leo carries a gold nugget in his pocket. Fletch and his sidekick, Wilkie, beat Leo up and steal the gold. Morris, a younger boy who lives in Leo’s building, sees Leo’s injuries and asks what happened. He urges Leo to get the gold back before the bullies sell it.

Early the next morning, Leo sneaks into the abandoned building where Fletch and Wilkie live. He tries to trick them into believing he’s a ghost. Then Morris shows up, and the boys know it’s a trick. Fletch and Wilkie start to fight Leo, but the ground beneath them begins to shake.

Fletch runs off as bricks begin to fall from the building. Leo and Morris escape but see Wilkie buried in the rubble. They turn back and pull off bricks and debris until Wilkie is free. Wilkie is angry that Fletch deserted him. He tells Leo and Morris he knows where Fletch has gone and where Leo’s gold nugget can be found.

The three boys head through chaotic streets, which are filled with firemen, people wailing and buildings in flame. Morris runs ahead into a burning building. Leo and Wilkie cover themselves with a wet blanket and go in to save him. They find Fletch inside. Wilkie gets him to hand over the sack containing their stash of stolen loot, and he gives the nugget back to Leo. Wilkie drags the injured Fletch into the street to save his life. Then he walks away, handing the sack of money to a woman who has just lost everything in the fire. Leo and Morris follow.

The city lies in ruins, and the railroad gives free tickets to anyone who wants to leave San Francisco. After three days in Golden Gate Park, which serves as a makeshift shelter for the poor, displaced and injured, Leo, Morris and Wilkie get their tickets. Leo decides to sell the gold nugget, knowing Grandpop would understand. He pays for Wilkie to go to Seattle, where a man had once offered him a football scholarship. Leo and Morris decide to go to New York City and find Morris’ cousins. Morris asks Leo if he misses the gold nugget. Leo says he doesn’t. As he looks toward a bright future ahead of him, he realizes the hope he feels is better than gold.

Christian Beliefs

A few characters pray during the earthquake. After the quake, a preacher urges the crowd not to give up on the city. He says the city’s spirit is still there, and the town can be rebuilt.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Papa got sick and died not long before the story begins. Leo recalls the many stories Papa told of Leo’s grandfather, Grandpop, who traveled alone from the East to San Francisco at age 16. Grandpop faced many obstacles and overcame them through bravery and quick thinking. His adventures inspire and embolden Leo, as do the memories of Papa’s encouraging words. Morris’ uncle is rarely home and has gambled away all their money.


The word heck appears once. Fletch and Wilkie beat up on Leo and steal his gold nugget.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Author’s notes about the historic earthquake and facts about earthquakes are found at the back of the book.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 to 12


Lauren Tarshis






Record Label



Scholastic Inc.


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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