Secrets in the City


Plague. “An epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence.” Imagine that running through your town. That’s what Young Lizzie had to face in her town of San Francisco in 1900 in the book Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko. A boat from Honolulu, which had been hit by the plague, goes to San Francisco. A rat got off the boat and ran into the city …

A normal day for Lizzie is she goes to Mrs. Barstow’s School. Jing, her servant, comes to take her home. Her dad goes off to work as a doctor and Lizzie likes to come along. But strange things start happening. Like 87 rats dying out of nowhere. Rats were piling up in walls of restaurants, all dead. People talk. Is there the plague in San Francisco or not?

Jing goes off to the market one day and doesn’t return. While he is away Lizzie finds a boy in the attic and he has a BIG secret to keep. Lizzie guesses Jing was caught in the Chinatown quarantine. Dr. Kinyoun does a lab test on a rat, two guinea pigs and a monkey to see if the plague is in San Francisco. The rat and the guinea pigs died. If the monkey died than there would be a true plague outbreak.

Lizzie tries several times to free Jing. One of the 3 times worked. Jing is back, but the lab monkey dies. People don’t know if Dr. Kinyoun killed the monkey to prove a point. The secret attic boy goes to Chinatown for school, but Lizzie liked his company. She goes to Chinatown and finds shoes poking out of a barrel. She realizes they are dead bodies. Plague or no plague, people are dying.

Chasing Secrets is a good mystery/historical fiction book for kids 9 and up. In the end of the book the author talks about what really happened in San Francisco in that time. This book is also good for grownups who like historical fiction. I told my mom to read this book and she really liked it.