Lily and the Great Quake: MCBD Book Review

Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day! I am grateful for a world of books reflecting children’s diverse experiences and histories. I hope you will join me in reading many of them throughout the year and celebrating them today.

This year Capstone Publishing, a Silver Sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, gifted me with a review copy of Vedda Bybee’s Lily and the Great Quake: A San Francisco Earthquake Survival Story, one of many books in their Girls Survive series under the Stone Arch imprint.

Readers of Lily and the Great Quake experience the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and its immediate aftermath alongside Lily, the 12-year-old protagonist living in Chinatown on the day of the quake. As Lily walks through debris-strewn streets to evacuate across the bay to Oakland, she leaves the familiarity of Chinatown and faces not only a harrowing journey through the City, but its racism toward families of Chinese descent—all while working to overcome her own shyness.

I appreciate the nuance with which the racism was portrayed in this relatively short chapter book (just over a hundred pages in a generous-sized font). Readers get a look at the ways racism both is and is not unique to time and place. Even though both Lily and her parents were born in the United States, the city is so segregated that upon walking several blocks she encounters people who rarely saw Chinese Americans. These people have a range of reactions to Lily and her companions. Among those with her is a young woman neighbor whose feet are bound, a tradition from China that Lily’s parents have opted against for their daughters. Lily is both glad for her parents’ decision and protective of her friend. The friend is one of several multi-dimensional supporting characters.

The back of the book says that its reading level is 3–5 and interest level is 3–7. With fire, entrapment, risk of robbery and explosives, social issues, and pushing personal growth, there’s plenty to keep the plot moving and to contemplate for readers in that wide age range. I learned that authors of books in the series use a word list. Bybee used it well. Details about such things as the debris in the streets, smells and dust in the air, and what evacuees brought with them bring the historical event to life while dealing with larger issues as well.

The story text is supported by Alessio Trunfio’s grayscale illustrations, a glossary, discussion questions, and an excellent author’s note expanding on related history and connecting the book to Bybee’s own experiences as a Chinese-American person who grew up in San Francisco.

See below to learn more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day, its generous sponsors, and free resources available for educators and librarians. Their website includes links to hundreds of reviews of multicultural children’s books. #ReadYourWorld.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board


Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,


Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,


Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,


Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,


Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books,  TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales


Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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4 Responses to Lily and the Great Quake: MCBD Book Review

  1. This book sounds great. My mother grew up in Japantown in SF but not around the great earthquake. I’d love to read this book now that I know it would reflect on her experience a little. Thanks so much for sharing at Multicultural Children’s Book Day and for your support of our holiday!

  2. I like the book you reviewed for MCBD. I have read other novels that include the SF earthquake, but not from the perspective of Chinese families. Another book to add to my list! I enjoyed your thorough review.

    • Thank you, Patricia! When I think of good children’s book reviews, I always think of you–so that means a lot to me to know you enjoyed my review.

      I am really struck by how valuable it is to look at a historical event from diverse perspectives. I have lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, and there were definitely things based on facts that surprised me in this story.

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