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Chasing Secrets

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,092 ratings  ·  382 reviews
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 sc
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Wendy Lamb Books
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,092 ratings  ·  382 reviews

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Lisa Mandina
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Finally got to finish and loved it. I think YA historical fiction is the best because the history is added in such a way that it is interesting and makes a great story. Full review to come on my blog, Lisa Loves Literature, soon.
Brenda Kahn
Recently, there was a Nerdy Book Club blog post entitled, "Pulse-pounding Historical Fiction." This isn't due out till August but would hold its own on that list. Definitely one to give to those kids who claim to hate historical fiction as well as those who love it. Atmospheric, the sights, sounds and smells of San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th century spring vividly to life as do the variety of characters.

ETA: Rereading with my ears 8/18/17. Loved it just as much!
The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori)
Full Review on The Candid Cover

Chasing Secrets is a book that really has it all! This story is an excellent read that promotes history, while keeping readers on their toes. Choldenko has created another incredible middle grade historical fiction in Chasing Secrets. This time we learn about a deadly plague, a determined main character, and themes of family, friendship and secrets in the fast paced mystery.

Based on actual events, Chasing Secrets tells the story of a plague outbreak in San Fransisc
*A very entertaining historical fiction novel.
*Unusual subjects-A modern recurrence of Bubonic Plague, San Francisco pre-1906 quake, women's rights, and Chinese-American life in the early 20th century.
*Wide Appeal-The story includes hints of romance, action and derring-do, is based on true historical events, and provides readers with a Downton Abbey-esque window into the daily lives of history's ultra-wealthy.

*Meandering plot-There was a lot going on here--Lizzie+Gus, Lizzie+Noah, Lizzie
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Back in 2013, I first read Choldenko, having randomly selected the audiobook for Al Capone Does My Shirts as being of possible interest. I was right, though the books were entirely different than I’d expected, coming at history from an angle I didn’t see coming.

Similarly, Chasing Secrets takes on the topic of plague as it’s breaking out, rather than once everyone is already dying. We see this happen through the lens of aspiring scientist, Lizzie. Her favorite thing is joining her dad on his call
I had no idea the bubonic plague was ever in the U.S.! (Have I been living under a rock or what?!?) Choldenko has done it again! A wonderfully written juvenile historical fiction book with so much information, though you don't realize it because the storytelling is so enthralling!! I love Noah, Lizzie, Billy, and all these characters! Such an intriguing exploration of ethics!! Can't wait to write about it on my blog and then will link to this review!!
Ms. Yingling
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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Lizzie doesn't feel like she has any friends at Miss Barstow's school in San Francisco in 1900, and her older brother, Billy, has drifted away from her as well. She's always glad to accompany her physician father on his calls because she can set a broken arm or administer chloroform; she just can't make her Aunt Hortense happy by saying and wearing the appropriate things. When her father is called away for an extended period at the same time that beloved family retainer,
Emily Scheinman
I'm really excited about Gennifer's new release and looking forward to seeing how kids connect with the story!
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: byl-reads
I really enjoyed this story about a headstrong girl living in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Lizzie loves to help her father tend to his patients, and she longs to become a doctor as well, something that her Aunt Hortense just cannot abide. Girls are meant to be pretty and well-mannered, which is why she is sent to Miss Barstow's School. But when there is suspicion about a possible plague outbreak in Chinatown, no one believes it, but Lizzie knows something is definitely wrong.

This was a ve
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wowwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!! I really liked this book, and what an appropriate time to read it 😂 (as it's about the plague and we have the coronavirus). I do think the ending was a bit fast, and I would've liked to see more of Gus and Gemma in the last few bits, but other than that, it was a really good book. The rest of the ending I WAS NOT expecting. Another amazing book by Gennifer Choldenko! I had no clue she was the author of the Al-Capone series! I love those books too!!
Dawn Cloud
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love how books can get students interested in history. I wish books like this were around when I was young. This taught me about a time and historical event that I didn't know anything about. I love when a book piques my interest into something new.
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko, known for her Alcatraz trilogy, shifts her focus to Gilded Age San Francisco in CHASING SECRETS. Heroine Lizzie Kennedy is a bright young girl interested in the work of her physician father. When her family's cook Jing goes missing, Lizzie starts paying more attention to what is happening in her city.

I found the facts behind CHASING SECRETS fascinating and appreciated that Choldenko detailed the history and some resources in the back of the novel.
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the great things about books is that they introduce us to new ideas, possibilities and in this case, history. I never knew there was a plague outbreak in San Francisco in the early 1900s or that Chinatown in Honolulu had been burned down because of a plague outbreak (and my husband is a Hawaii boy and I lived there for several years....not exactly the local history they teach you at Punahou). Choldenko sets her story in San Francisco in the home of a doctor who ministers to all the city's ...more
Annie Oosterwyk
This story takes place in San Francisco during the early 1900s. The bubonic plague has struck in Chinatown. Lizzie dreams of becoming a doctor one day, just like her father, but girls aren't allowed and she doesn't fit in at Miss Barstow's school for the daughters of the wealthy and connected. There is a quarantine keeping the Chinese in Chinatown and their cook, Jing, is trapped away from their home. Lizzie works to free Jing and finally makes a friend at school and an unexpected one at home.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I bought copies of this book for 7th graders in book clubs. I am hoping this book inspires conversation and discussion that goes well beyond the page and into my students' lives.

Other reviewers have covered the unusual setting and the deft weaving of a gentle suspense story into historical fiction. I think my readers will respond to the inter-class and interracial friendship between Lizzie and Noah and Lizzie's growing self-awareness about how her upper class status shapes her worldview.

I found
Leanne C
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
It took me a bit to warm up to this one. But I don't think Choldenko could have done anything different. Things had to be set up and that takes a bit of time. Once I got into, I was really into it! Lots of interesting historical issues including a quarantine in San Francisco's Chinatown, racism and women's rights (to name a few!). I really liked the main character and the relationships that formed with other characters in the story. I particularly enjoyed the author's historical notes at the end ...more
Great Books
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ages-9-11
Kindness, compassion, and courage are qualities that characterize Lizzie’s father, the doctor. Lizzie has them too, and is determined to become a doctor, despite the bias that she will face in 1900. Those important qualities are tested as Lizzie seeks the truth about rumors of the plague, and resulting quarantine, in San Francisco’s Chinatown. reviewer #26
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another fantastic historical fiction selection from Gennifer Choldenko. Looking forward to getting this one in my students hands next year. Thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read in advance. Awesome book. LOVED the characters. Could not put this one down. LOVED it!
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is by the author of one of the best middle grade series that I have ever read - Al Capone Does My Shirts. Like the Capone books, Chasing Secrets takes place in San Francisco. The main character, Lizzie, and her family become involved in the historical and hushed up plague that broke out in San Francisco during the early 1900's. Great historical material for a middle grade book.

What this book lacks that the Al Capone books have are memorable characters that stick with you. The characte
Penny Peck
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-ya
Fantastic historical fiction with a strong, smart female protagonist. Lizzie lives in 1900 San Francisco at the time of a (historically accurate) round of bubonic plague that affected parts of the city, including Chinatown. Her father is a doctor and she helps him, but her older brother resists the family business. The family cook Jing and his son Noah are caught up in a quarantine of Chinatown, and Lizzie goes on a dangerous mission to see if she can get them out. Lots of interesting historical ...more
Kristin Nelson
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. I always learn stuff. Gennifer Choldenko clearly did a bunch of research and has some good author notes at the end. I was thinking 3 stars at first just because of some of the unrealistic things Lizzie did, but her brother Billy led me to switch it to 4 stars. ...more
Battle of the Books review:

Historical fiction. So many possible questions for Battle. Deals with class dynamics, privilege, grief. Female MC is headstrong and determined and smart, wants to become a doctor like her father. Not a “happy” topic: plague. While the SC are Chinese, the focus is definitely on the experience of Lizzie. A secondary choice for Battle where diversity is concerned.
Destinee Sutton
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this back when it came out. I'm not sure why I didn't review it then, but I can't stop thinking about it now. A deadly disease. Mandatory quarantine. Racism against Chinese immigrants. Sound familiar? This book is set in 1900, but so many aspects of it are relevant today with COVID-19.
Thirteen-year old Lizzie Kennedy doesn't fit in. It's 1900 and girls are not expected to like science or want to be doctors but medicine is Lizzie's passion and she dreams of being a doctor like her father one day. She loves accompanying her father on house calls and the feeling she gets from helping people. Her Aunt Hortense dismisses Lizzie's passion and everyone expects Lizzie to want to get married. As a result of her unusual interest and her older brother Billy's new interest in fighting, L ...more
Chloe Z
Some questions i have are why didnt jing try to break out of quarentine
Elizabeth G Ashley
SC Junior Book Award Nominee 2017-2018

Engaging text that starts middle graders thinking about classicism and racism in a nonthreatening, nonconfrontational way. As it is set in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, the social divides are obvious, but distanced from our current lives. Of course, there is a little mystery and a little romance that keep things interesting as a more superficial read. Plus, everyone loves a tomboy who has to wear a frilly dress!
Kathy Martin
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Lizzie Kennedy loves going with her doctor father on his cases. Her Aunt Hortense is less thrilled and wants Lizzie to do well at the posh school she attends and be more of a lady. But Lizzie loves medicine and science.

San Francisco in 1900 is soon to face an outbreak of bubonic plague. Her uncle who owns a newspaper and other powerful men are vested in keeping the outbreak hidden. It's bad for business and for tourism. Lizzie first gets involved when Jing, the Chinese housekeeper who has taken
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chasing Secrets is another excellent middle grade novel by Gennifer Choldenko. Both heart-warming and heart-wrenching, this story will keep readers of all ages captivated. The plague outbreak in San Francisco is a little-known historical event (unless, perhaps, you live in San Francisco) and the author has done her homework in researching the events surrounding the framework for the novel. I found the author's notes following the story fascinating.
Readers will warm quickly to spunky main charact
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Too crowded with subplots and issues, this story set in early twentieth-century San Francisco could have been charming if it had focused on a single story. Instead readers are given a girl who likes science in an age where women were supposed to stay home and marry, to say nothing of making friends, confronting stereotypes, familial drama, first crushes, possible epidemics, class differences … etc., and so on.

The central story – at least, the one I took to be the central story – focuses on Lizzi
The Styling Librarian
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko – Historical Fiction – 4th grade and up – Fascinating look at the plague in San Francisco. The deep exploration of judgement and racism towards Chinese people was so powerful to read, this is a necessary book for students to read and learn about. Throughout the book, the relationships, power struggles, and judgements people have even about genders flood the reader’s imagination. The learning opportunity students have while reading this rich, fascinating book ...more
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