Newbery Honor–winning author Gennifer Choldenko deftly combines humor, tragedy, fascinating historical detail, and a medical mystery in this exuberant new novel.
San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.
The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.
Winner of a Los Angeles Public Library FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) Award
Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award (Middle School division)
Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) Readers Award
California Library Association’s Beatty Award, Eureka List
"Aunt Hortense says I try hard to be peculiar. But she's wrong; I come by it quite naturally," says Lizzie Kennedy, 13, who reluctantly attends a fussy finishing school in turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco when she'd rather be making house calls with her father, a kindly doctor. (She and Jacqueline Kelly's Calpurnia Tate could've been BFFs if they had lived nearby.) When Lizzie overhears talk about a bubonic plague outbreak, her father and her uncle, a wealthy newspaper publisher, dismiss it as rumor. Within days, however, Chinatown is quarantined, trapping the Kennedys' beloved cook, Jing, and marooning his son, Noah, who he had secretly hidden in the Kennedy's servants' quarters. Ignoring the social mores that would prohibit Lizzie from befriending a boy her age, a servant's child, or a Chinese person, she finds Noah much better company than her snooty classmates. A powerful subplot involving Lizzie's older brother, Billy, shows that the controversy over immunization has long roots. Choldenko, who won a Newbery Honor for Al Capone Does My Shirts, delivers another engaging historical novel about a little-known event. Ages 9 12.