Fault Lines: Understanding the Power of Earthquakes


I remember earthquake drills in elementary school. Once a year, we’d squeeze under our tiny desks, which only worked if we ourselves were tiny and until about Grade 7 when most of the boys and some of the girls no longer fit. Then, teachers would try to herd us outside and basically the entire day would be blown. Despite all that practice, we have nothing on Japanese school children, who have earthquake drills nailed.

Johanna Wagstaffe explores earthquakes and their power in Fault Lines: Understanding the Power of Earthquakes. Although aimed at middle school readers, I took away some good tidbits. Far better than the instructions we were given in elementary school, although the science and best practices have doutlesslessly improved in the past 20 years. Things like: have a pre-set meeting place in case the earthquake happens when the entire family is at work, and don’t run outside because you’re more likely to be hit on the head. Wagstaffe’s science explanations are thorough too and actually make earthquakes seem less terrifying. Earthquakes seem like a personal affront to humanity when we hear about them on the news or experience them, but Wagstaffe’s book is a reminder the earth is just doing what it does.

Wagstaffe, a meteorologist and science host at the CBC, mixes facts about what causes earthquakes and what to expect with stories from children who lived through earthquakes.

Earthquakes are scary, but Wagstaffe’s book has a brisk, explanatory tone that kept me from spiraling into fear and despair so I think middle school kids will be okay with this one. I really need to get an earthquake kit though.

Actually, the one thing that did scare me was a photograph of tsunami waves hitting a beach in Thailand following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Seriously, no one in that photo is running away except a guy in a green beach towel. Everyone else is just chilling. Move it!

Johanna Wagstaffe was at Event 43 (Faultlines) of the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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