Horrors of History City of the Dead book cover image

Horrors of History: City of the Dead

  • 1695

By: T. Neill Anderson

Based on the natural disaster that nearly destroyed Galveston, Texas.

The year was 1900—a time before cars, evacuation routes, and up-to-the-minute weather reports. It was the day the deadliest storm in US history hammered Galveston, Texas. It was the day an entire island city was nearly wiped from existence.

At the onset of the hurricane, Albert Campbell and the other boys at the orphanage kicked and splashed in the emerging puddles. Daisy Thorne read letters from her fiancé, and Sam Young wondered if his telegram had reached the mainland, warning his family of the weather.

Just a few hours later, torrential rains and crushing tidal waves had flooded the metropolis. Winds upwards of one hundred miles per hour swept entire houses and trees down the streets. Debris slashed through the air; bodies whirled amid the rushing waters. Albert, Daisy, and Sam weren’t safe. No one was.

Based on an historic natural disaster, City of the Dead weaves together a shocking story where some miraculously survive . . . and many others are tragically lost.

City of the Dead is the first book the Horrors of History series. The series commemorates horrific, life-changing events in our nation's past. Each novel makes history accessible with a combination of thorough research, descriptions of a specific time period, narrative accounts of actual historical persons, and fictionalized characters.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

T. Neill Anderson, author

T. Neill Anderson is fascinated—and often horrified—by the countless true tales of America’s past stories. The Horrors of History series are his first books for young readers. He lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

Read more about T. Neill Anderson.

Awards & Honors:

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

A quick-paced novel about one of the worst disasters in American history.

The 1900 Galveston hurricane killed more than 8,000 people (about 1 in 6 residents) and destroyed more than 3,600 houses. This short novel, the first in the Horrors of History series, opens with a prologue in which a reporter watches men digging up dead bodies after the storm and finding those of nine children and a nun tied in a line with clothesline. It then follows the experiences of six characters: five based on real people and an entirely fictional one, an African-American named Charlie. Three are boys from a waterfront orphanage run by nuns. One is a doctor who usually enjoys powerful storms and whose workman, Charlie, struggles against the elements on his way home. Another, a young schoolteacher, harbors neighbors whose houses are destroyed, only to fear her apartment won't stay standing. Character development and nuance take a back seat to dialogue and action that moves quickly from one imperiled character to another. Gruesome details abound, especially after the storm ends and survivors see the corpses and destruction. Such a high-appeal topic could draw in even reluctant readers, although they may have trouble keeping track of all the characters. Scattered black-and-white historic photographs and two maps remind readers just how real the story is.

Not for the fainthearted but likely to appeal to disaster fans.

School Library Journal

On September 8th, 1900, Galveston, Texas, was hit with one of the worst natural disasters in history as a hurricane roared through the city and nearly swept it right off the map. An estimated 8000 people were killed and property damage is estimated at almost $100 billion (adjusted 2005 USD). This novel centers on Daisy Thorne, a resident of the ill-fated Lucas Terrace; Dr. Sam Young, an amateur meteorologist; and Albert Campbell, an orphan from St. Mary's Orphanage, and follows their efforts to survive the disaster and what they witnessed and endured while doing so. Anderson does an excellent job of telling the story and weaving actual events into his fictionalized account. Readers will understand the epic nature of this storm and feel genuine pathos for these people and what they went through. Small black-and-white reproductions show the aftermath of the storm. This is a highly accessible entry point for kids trying to understand and put meaning to some of the recent natural disasters that have struck our country as well as a vivid account of one of our nation's worst.

Library Media Connection

The devastating hurricane that the city of Galveston, Texas experienced in 1900 remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. In this fictionalized account, Anderson skillfully relates the story of that terrifying September day through the eyes of a number of individuals, some of whom were actual eyewitnesses and others he created to help tell the complete story. Through the use of short sections that alternate among the central characters, Anderson maintains suspense and the readers' interest. Photographs, paintings, and maps help supply context to the well-researched narrative and partially convey the extent of the damage. This book is an excellent way to provide young readers perspective on more recent natural disasters and to demonstrate that, despite human loss, life continues for the communities that suffer these calamities.


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ISBN: 978-1-58089-514-9

ISBN: 978-1-60734-535-0 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-603-6 PDF
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Ages: 12 and up
Page count: 144
9 x 6

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Horrors of History: People of the Plague
Horrors of History: Massacre of the Miners