Earthquake! The Diary of Katie Bourke, Napier, 1930-31 by Janine McVeagh

by Janine McVeagh








Earthquake! The Diary of Katie Bourke, Napier, 1930-31
Written by Janine McVeagh
Reviewed by Katharine Derrick

Teaching notes available at:

Earthquake! The Diary of Katie Bourke, Napier, 1930-31 is the story of 11-year-old Katie Bourke. As the title suggests Katie experiences the February 1931 earthquake in Napier, but the earthquake and its aftermath take up less than a fifth of the story. Is this a problem? Not really, although it does make for a misleading title.

Earthquake! is part of the My Story series and is written as a diary. There are a number of limitations with this format but McVeagh manages to use the format effectively. Through Katie’s eyes the reader experiences not only the earthquake towards the end of the book but also the death of her father at the start, the financial difficulties of the Great Depression and a raft of family and community relationships. There is always something happening from problems with the Sisters at school to raising a hen to the sudden and unexplained appearance of a scary older brother. Throughout, McVeagh successfully conveys a period of our history that was common to all of New Zealand. Many readers will have grandparents or great-grandparents who lived during the Great Depression, which makes this a universal story.

The limited amount of earthquake detail led me to GNS Science where I asked them how similar the Napier and Christchurch earthquakes and their aftershocks have been. The Napier earthquake was more devastating but even though the aftershocks continued for over a year there were fewer of them. GNS Science told me that the Murchison earthquake of 1929 had much more in common with Christchurch but is not as well known because the loss of life was much lower. Seventeen people died, although it could have been well into the hundreds if the area had been more populated.

Earthquake! The Diary of Katie Bourke, Napier, 1930-31 might be light on earthquake detail but it is a great starting point for students studying the Great Depression and/or New Zealand earthquakes. Recommended.

McVeagh, Janine. Earthquake! The Diary of Katie Bourke, Napier, 1930-31, Scholastic, Auckland, 2004.

 For more information on New Zealand earthquakes:

For more information on the Great Depression in New Zealand:

For more information on raising chickens:

For more information on creating a garden:
Noonan, Diana and Olsen, Keith. The NZ Kids’ Garden, Penguin Group (NZ), Auckland, 2010.
Anthony, Diana. The Small Edible Garden, David Bateman Ltd, Auckland 2008.
Marriott, Janice. Young Gardener: Growing Things to Eat, HarperCollinsPublishers (New Zealand) Ltd, Auckland, 2009.

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One Response to Earthquake! The Diary of Katie Bourke, Napier, 1930-31 by Janine McVeagh

  1. Jen says:

    sounds interesting shall have to see my library has it 🙂

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