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"Did the world split open? That's how it felt. I could hear, faintly, the sound of church bells, and although I knew they were ringing because of the shaking from the quake, had most likely been ringing all along, it felt like they were tolling for the end of the world."
Minnie Bonner[2]

A City Tossed and Broken: The Diary of Minnie Bonner is the last book published in the Dear America series. The book was written by Judy Blundell. It is also Blundell's only book for the series. The book was released in March 2013 by Scholastic at the same time as Susan Campbell Bartoletti's Down the Rabbit Hole.

Minnie Bonner comes to San Francisco as a lady's maid on the eve of the 1906 earthquake.

Book description[]

"My name is Minnie. This is my story....
When Minnie Bonner's father disappears after losing the family's Philadelphia tavern in a card game, Minnie is forced to work as a lady's maid for Lily Sump, the daughter of the cruel new owners.
The Sumps have grand plans, however, grander than the city of Philadelphia can offer. They have decided to move to San Francisco—the greatest city in the West—and take Minnie with them. But when a powerful earthquake strikes, devastating San Francisco, followed by raging fires that destroy huge swaths of the city, Minnie is presented with an opportunity to assume a different identity, become someone else—someone with a
lot of money. With chaos all around her, Minnie finds herself torn between telling the truth and indulging in a life she never thought she'd have. Yet, as mysteries from her past begin to unravel, it becomes clear that the earthquake isn't the only disaster at hand."


In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, fourteen-year-old Minette "Minnie" Bonner has to leave her family's beloved Blue Spruce Tavern. Their creditor Chester Sump wants to sell it now that he is moving his family to San Francisco, California. Minnie's mother, Hazel, arranges for her to work for the Sumps as a lady's maid to their daughter Lily. After helping Olive Sump pack, Minnie goes to say goodbye to her mother. Hazel reveals that Minnie's father, Jacques "Jock", lost the tavern in a bet with Andrew Jewell, whom Minnie saw days earlier visiting the Sumps' home. She leaves without saying goodbye, upset with her mother for throwing out her father and now for sending her away to San Francisco for at least two years.

On the train, Minnie notices Lily discreetly going off on her own several times but decides not to tell the controlling Mrs. Sump. A week later, they arrive at the Sumps newly built home on Nob Hill. That night, Minnie eavesdrops on Mr. and Mrs. Sump talking about Andrew Jewell. She then hears him take out a strongbox and place a book and money inside it. Minnie becomes determined to see the book somehow. The following morning, Minnie meets Jake Jennardi when he makes a grocery delivery to the house. She quickly takes a liking to him. In the early hours of April 18, Lily comes into the kitchen wearing Minnie's clothes and asks her for her help. The room then starts to shake as an earthquake strikes.

When the shaking finally stops, Minnie discovers that Lily and her parents have all passed away during the earthquake. The Sumps lawyer Mr. Crandall later finds Minnie amongst the rubble and mistakes her for Lily due to her clothing. He takes her to the ferry, but she cannot bring herself to get on it. Instead, she walks to Nob Hill and takes out the strongbox, in which she finds the suspicious ledger from the night before. Minnie hastily hides the strongbox under a couch just before Mr. Crandall walks in. He now takes over as her guardian and brings her to his home on Russian Hill, where his superficial wife awaits. In the middle of the night, Minnie goes back in secret to bury the strongbox.

A couple days later, Minnie breaks away from the Crandalls to help fight the fire and meets Jake again. The Crandalls soon locate her and they head to Mrs. Crandall's sister's home. Andrew Jewell arrives and claims that Lily is his fiancée and thus blackmails Minnie into going along with his scheme. After returning to Russian Hill with the Crandalls, Minnie happens to meet her father. She confides her troubles to him and he takes her to confront Andrew. They make a new deal concerning the strongbox. That night, they open it and the money instantly ignites but Jock manages to save the ledger. Andrew leaves annoyed after muttering some empty threats. Minnie and her father then plan what to do next.


Minnie admitted her deception to the Crandalls. They were very upset until Jock revealed the ledger. The Bonners were paid for the sale of the tavern. Hazel came to join them, though she was still mad at her husband. They built a restaurant called Lily's with the money. In 1915, Minnie met Jake again at an exposition. They married within a year and lived at Telegraph Hill with their three children. Jake became a partner in the restaurant, which their eldest Dante took over when they decided to take early retirement. Today, Lily's is run by their great-great-granddaughter Alessandra Jennardi.

Jake passed away at eighty-three, and Minnie at ninety-one. She was an honored guest at the annual ceremony of re-painting the golden fire hydrant for the final years of her life. Minnie's father died of a heart attack at fifty-five. Hazel was remarried to a geology professor. Mr. Crandall established the Sump Trust, which became important in the rebuilding of San Francisco. He became successful attorney in commercial real estate. After he died, his daughter Lavinia took over the trust with her cousin Delia Flynn. They went into nonprofit ventures. In Los Angeles, Andrew worked in vaudeville. He was shot during a poker game at forty-two.

Historical Note[]

By 1906, San Francisco was a booming port town, changing and growing at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, the government ran on a system of bribes and payoffs due to its corrupt city council and mayor Eugene Schmitz, whom was controlled by the political boss Abe Ruef. The water distribution system of San Francisco was deemed "inadequate and faulty" and likely to fail in an emergency by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Dennis Sullivan, the city's fire chief, had long been concerned about the fire department's ability to fight a citywide fire, citing catastrophes like the Great Chicago Fire. His proposal of a high-pressure water system was rejected by the city council without reason.

On April 18, 1906, a powerful earthquake "ripped through" San Francisco and a three day firestorm followed. General Frederick Funston took control almost immediately. He ordered for the creation of firebreaks, but careless use of explosives often resulted in the fire spreading. Eventually, the firestorm became three main fires. The city had no functioning fire hydrants, causing the firemen to use whatever water they could find. Ultimately, half of the city was destroyed and 225,000 people were homeless. The section also discusses discrimination against Chinese immigrants and the city's Chinatown. Nine photos of the earthquake's damage and a map of the United States are included.


Main article: List of A City Tossed and Broken characters


Main article: Judy Blundell

Judy Blundell is an American author well known for her 2011 young adult novel What I Saw and How I Lied. She has also written several Star Wars novels under the penname Jude Watson. A City Tossed and Broken is her only book for Dear America. Blundell has lived in San Francisco at least twice in her lifetime. She would often walk by the Golden Fire Hydrant and imagine what the city looked like in 1906. Blundell wrote Minnie to have "an adventurous spirit and a talent for reinvention," which are character traits she associates with many San Franciscans.



  • The portrait on the cover was illustrated by Tim O'Brien. The background is a detail a 1906 painting of San Francisco's City Hall after the earthquake provided by the Library of Congress.[4][5]


See also[]

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

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