Chasing Secrets book cover
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Educators Guide
Chasing secrets
by Gennifer Choldenko
ages 9 and up
Wendy Lamb Books / Random House
ISBN 978-0-385-74253-5

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.

FOCAL Award (enriches a child’s appreciation for and understanding of California)
Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Nominee
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Nominee


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Educators Guide

“The plot is enriched by winning characters, meaningful friendships, a taut atmosphere, and secrets multiplying as fast as the story's rats.”

"Choldenko masterfully builds the suspense of Lizzie's attempts to rescue Jing, and the story intensifies when Lizzie discovers Jing's charming 12-year-old son, Noah, hiding in their own house. In wonderfully frank closed-door conversations, Noah opens Lizzie's eyes to racial injustice … and a side of her longtime friend Jing she never even considered.

“Not only will this novel hold a proud spot on the deadly disease shelf with Jim Murphy's An American Plague and Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793, it's a vivid picture of 20th-century San Francisco and a stirring story of a lonely, funny girl trying to be her "best true self.”

“Choldenko's latest novel features a fast-paced plot that will appeal to lovers of both mystery and historical fiction. A first purchase.”

“Choldenko delivers another engaging historical novel about a little-known event.”

“Lizzie and Noah’s secret friendship grows with genuine tenderness … a solid story of friendship, mystery, and one girl’s perseverance.”

“This book drew me in so completely I did not want to put it down.”

“Newbery Honor winner Gennifer Choldenko’s ability to research obscure yet intriguing topics is uncanny, and as she did with the popular Al Capone trilogy, she turns a tough topic into a high-interest read … a compelling work of historical fiction.”

“Fast-paced, high stakes tone … (you will) fall in love with the protagonists and become engrossed in the mystery.”

“Choldenko is a fine storyteller and this should prove to be a historical fiction crowd-pleaser on several levels.”

“Any young teenager who thinks she knows better than the adults around her will have a surge of fellow feeling for Lizzie.”

“(A) spirited adventure ... (A) page turner.”

“A tender and gripping story of friendship, mystery and persistence.”

“Ms. Choldenko’s writing was very readable and engaging and I flew through the pages.”

“I highly recommend this middle grade novel for its elements of mystery and suspense.”

“Appealing and convincing main characters and detail-rich setting.”

“A middle grade novel that can charm all ages … (Choldenko’s) characters are lovable yet prone to relatable human weaknesses, and are memorable long after the story ends … The writing in Chasing Secrets is delightful and brings to mind other great works of children’s literature such as: Moon Over Manifest and A Long Way From Chicago.”


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