City of Orphans [NOOK Book]

Overview

Plot twists, big accusations, and plenty of shifty, crooked characters fill the pages of this harrowing adventure from Newbery Medalist Avi.

The streets of 1893 New York are crowded and filthy. For thirteen-year-old newsboy Maks Geless, they are also dangerous. Bruno, leader of the awful Plug Ugly Gang, has set his sights on Maks and orders his boys to track him down. Suddenly Maks finds himself on the run, doing all he can to evade the gang, ...
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City of Orphans

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Overview

Plot twists, big accusations, and plenty of shifty, crooked characters fill the pages of this harrowing adventure from Newbery Medalist Avi.

The streets of 1893 New York are crowded and filthy. For thirteen-year-old newsboy Maks Geless, they are also dangerous. Bruno, leader of the awful Plug Ugly Gang, has set his sights on Maks and orders his boys to track him down. Suddenly Maks finds himself on the run, doing all he can to evade the gang, with only his new friend Willa by his side. And that’s just the start of Mak’s troubles. His sister, Emma, has been arrested and imprisoned for stealing a watch from the glamorous new Waldorf Hotel. Maks knows she didn’t do it—but will he be able to prove it in time?
This is a riveting, quickly paced adventure set against a backdrop alive with the sights and sounds of tenement New York.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thirteen-year-old Maks Geless, the oldest son of Danish immigrants, makes eight cents a day hawking The World on Manhattan street corners in 1893. Newbery Medalist Avi tells his story in a vibrant, unsophisticated, present-tense voice (a typical chapter begins, “Okay, now it’s the next day—Tuesday”), and it’s a hard life. Maks’s sister Agnes has TB, the shoe factory where Agnes and Mr. Geless work is suspending operations, and the grocer and landlord want their accounts paid. Then Maks’s oldest sister, Emma, is accused of stealing from a guest at the Waldorf Hotel, where she is a maid. Amid this strife, the good-hearted Gelesses take in Willa, a homeless girl who saved Maks from a street gang. Maks and Willa must prove Emma’s innocence, with the help of an odd, possibly dying detective (he’s coughing up blood, too). The contrasts among Maks’s family’s squalid tenement existence; Emma’s incarceration in the Tombs, the city’s infamous prison; and the splendor of the Waldorf bring a stark portrait of 19th-century society to a terrifically exciting read, with Ruth’s fine pencil portraits adding to the overall appeal. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
CITY OF ORPHANS
Written by Avi and Illustrated by Greg Ruth
(Atheneum; ISBN: 9781416971023; September 2011; Fall Catalog page 51)

“An immigrant family tries to survive crime, poverty and corruption in 1893 New York City. Earning enough money to cover the rent and basic needs in this year of economic panic is an endless struggle for every member of the family. Every penny counts, even the eight cents daily profit 13-year-old Maks earns by selling newspapers. Maks also must cope with violent attacks by a street gang and its vicious leader, who in turn is being manipulated by someone even more powerful. Now Maks’ sister has been wrongly arrested for stealing a watch at her job in the glamorous Waldorf Hotel and is in the notorious Tombs prison awaiting trial. How will they prove her innocence? Maks finds help and friendship from Willa, a homeless street urchin, and Bartleby Donck, an eccentric lawyer. Avi’s vivid recreation of the sights and sounds of that time and place is spot on, masterfully weaving accurate historical details with Maks’ experiences as he encounters the city of sunshine and shadow. An omniscient narrator speaks directly to readers, establishing an immediacy that allows them to feel the characters’ fears and worries and hopes. Heroic deeds, narrow escapes, dastardly villains, amazing coincidences and a family rich in love and hope are all part of an intricate and endlessly entertaining adventure. Terrific!”

— Kirkus July 15, 2011 *STAR

City of Orphans.
Avi (Author) , Ruth, Greg (Illustrator)
Sep 2011. 368 p. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, hardcover, $16.99. (9781416971023).

Dickensian street action comes to New York’s Lower East Side in this gripping story, set in 1893, of
newsboy Maks, 13, who feels “hungry twenty-five hours a day.” After rescuing a filthy, homeless girl,
Willa, Maks takes her to the crowded tenement he shares with his struggling Danish immigrant family.
Pursued by Bruno, the leader of the Plug Ugly street gang, Maks is desperate to save his sister, Emma,
who was imprisoned after being falsely accused of stealing a watch from the Waldorf Hotel, where she
worked as a cleaner. Just as compelling as the fast-moving plot’s twists and turns is the story’s social
realism, brought home by the contrasts between the overcrowded, unsanitary slums (“No water, gas,
electricity”) and the luxurious Waldorf. Then there are the unspeakable conditions in prison, where, even
as a prisoner, Emma must pay for food. Avi writes in an immediate, third-person, present-tense voice,
mostly from Maks’ colloquial viewpoint (“He’s full of heartache, but no one is seeing it”), with occasional
switches to Willa and to the desperate young gangster leader. Threading together the drama are tense
mysteries: Is Willa really an orphan? Who stole the watch? Pair this riveting historical novel with Linda
Granfield’s 97 Orchard Street, New York: Stories of Immigrant Life (2001), a nonfiction account of Lower
East Side tenements.

Booklist, August 1, 2011, *STAR

City of Orphans
Avi, illus. by Greg Ruth. S&S/Atheneum/Jackson, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4169-7102-3

Thirteen-year-old Maks Geless, the oldest son of Danish immigrants, makes eight cents a day hawking The World on Manhattan street corners in 1893. Newbery Medalist Avi tells his story in a vibrant, unsophisticated, present-tense voice (a typical chapter begins, “Okay, now it’s the next day—Tuesday”), and it’s a hard life. Maks’s sister Agnes has TB, the shoe factory where Agnes and Mr. Geless work is suspending operations, and the grocer and landlord want their accounts paid. Then Maks’s oldest sister, Emma, is accused of stealing from a guest at the Waldorf Hotel, where she is a maid. Amid this strife, the good-hearted Gelesses take in Willa, a homeless girl who saved Maks from a street gang. Maks and Willa must prove Emma’s innocence, with the help of an odd, possibly dying detective (he’s coughing up blood, too). The contrasts among Maks’s family’s squalid tenement existence; Emma’s incarceration in the Tombs, the city’s infamous prison; and the splendor of the Waldorf bring a stark portrait of 19th-century society to a terrifically exciting read, with Ruth’s fine pencil portraits adding to the overall appeal. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)

Publishers Weekly, August 22, 2011, *STAR

"Narrating in the present tense, Avi attempts a colloquial, first-person “Lemme tell you how it was” style not normally found in books for middle graders. The opening, which describes Maks so vividly you feel that he’s standing right in front of you, strikes the kind of friendly note bound to draw in the average reader. 'Now, this Maks, he’s regular height for a 13-year-old, ruddy-faced, shaggy brown hair, always wearing a cloth cap, canvas jacket and trousers, plus decent boots.' In short, he’s a 'newsie'…honest-to-goodness historical mysteries are hard to find, and Avi doles out his clues carefully, allowing children the chance to feel smart if they put two and two together."

The New York Times Book Review

"Like the intricate inner workings of a fine gold watch from a bygone era, Avi crafts a not-to-be-missed mystery/thriller yarn featuring a colorful cast of mugs and swells and set amidst the opulence and the poverty of nineteenth century Manhattan."

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com

School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Times are tough for most families in New York City in 1893, and Maks's family is no exception. They live in a tenement building with almost 200 other people and everyone in the family contributes to paying the rent. Maks is a "newsie," standing on the corner every afternoon selling copies of The World, "the world's greatest newspaper." When the local Plug Uglies gang tries to rob Maks, he's saved by a resilient homeless girl named Willa. Thankful, Maks brings her home and soon she becomes part of their family. Maks and Willa band together to help prove that Maks's sister, falsely accused of stealing in the fancy Waldorf Hotel, is freed from prison. With the help of a private detective, they connect the theft to a small-time mobster, who happens to be Willa's deadbeat father. With his youthful tones and lively narration, Chris Sorenson does a wonderful job of narrating Avi's historical novel (Atheneum, 2012). The period details come to life, enticing listeners to learn more about the tenements and the rich upper class living in New York City just before the turn of the century. Maks's ingenuity and Willa's bravery shine through this tale of danger and intrigue. For all library collections.—Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT
The Barnes & Noble Review

In Avi's City of Orphans, thirteen-year-old Maks — " 'with a k.' Danish. Didn't get changed" — works as a "newsie" on New York City's Lower East Side, hawking The World newspaper, among the rest of the hustlers selling "jim- jam" in so many different languages that "it's like the cheapest boarding house in Babel." For this, he earns eight cents a day, which he takes home to help with the fifteen-dollar-a-month rent on the three-room tenement flat he shares with Mama, Papa, two sisters, three brothers, and a French boarder. That is, if the Plug Uglies don't get to him first.

The Plug Uglies — named after a real gang — are run by the fearsome Bruno and shake down all The World's newsies for their earnings, hoping to put the paper out of business, though Maks suspects someone higher up is "greasing" Bruno for his deeds. This is during the Great Panic of 1893, "before Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt started bending things straight," and "mugs" like Maks can't even trust the "coppers," who are always "ready to be bribed if you have the clink."

So when Maks's older sister, Emma, who works at the newly opened Waldorf Hotel — Papa says she got the job because she is so pretty; Mama says it's because she is so clean — is accused of stealing a watch and locked up in the Tombs, Maks is sure she's been framed. With the help of a street girl, Willa — born "Waddah" — who "smells like sauerkraut gone south" and carries a big stick, and a tubercular ex-Pinkerton detective, Maks goes further than he ever has before — 42nd Street — to solve the case. There, he discovers indoor showers, "a parade of rich people," and the root of two corrupt plans.

Amy Benfer has worked as an editor and staff writer at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazine. Her reviews and features on books have appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, The Believer, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Times Book Review.

Reviewer: Amy Benfer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416982609
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 66,615
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Avi
Avi is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at Avi-Writer.com.
Greg Ruth has published work for The New York Times, DC Comics, Paradox Press, Fantagraphics Books, and more. His books for children include Our Enduring Spirit by President Barack Obama and A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Preller. Greg lives and works in Western Massachusetts.

Biography

Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


1

Amazing things happen.

Look at someone on the street and you might never see that person again—ever. Then you bump into a stranger and your whole life changes—forever. See what I’m saying? It’s all ’bout them words: “luck,” “chance,” “coincidence,” “accident,” “quirk,” “miracle,” plus a lot of words I’m guessing I don’t even know.

But the thing is, I got a story that could use all them words. ’Bout a kid by the name of Maks Geless. That’s Maks, with a k. M-a-k-s.

Now, this Maks, he’s regular height for a thirteen-year-old, ruddy-faced, shaggy brown hair, always wearing a cloth cap, canvas jacket, and trousers, plus decent boots. He’s a newsboy—what they call a “newsie.” So he’s holding up a copy of the New York City newspaper The World,andhe’sshouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all ’bout it! ‘Murder at the Waldorf. Terrible Struggle with a Crazy Man! Two Men Killed!’ Read it in The World! The world’s greatest newspaper. Just two cents!”

Now, not everything gets into the papers, right? But see, the only one who knows what really happened up at the Waldorf is . . . Maks.

You’re thinking, how could this kid—this newsie—know?

I’ll tell you.

This story starts on Monday, October 9, 1893. That’s five days before the day of that headline you just heard. It’s early evening, the night getting nippy. Electric streetlamps just starting to glow. In other words, the long workday is winking.

Not for Maks. He’s still on his regular corner, Hester Street and the Bowery. Been peddling The World for five hours and has sold thirty-nine papers. Sell one more and he’ll have bailed his whole bundle. Do that and he’ll have eighty cents in his pocket.

Now listen hard, ’cause this is important.

In 1893 newsies buy their papers and then sell ’em. So next day’s bundle is gonna cost Maks seventy-two cents. Then he sells ’em for two cents each. Means, for his five hours’ work, he’ll earn a whole eight cents. Not much, you say? Hey, these days, six cents buys you a can of pork and beans, enough eats for a day, which is more than some people gets.

You’re probably thinking, eight pennies—that ain’t hardly worth working all them hours. But this is 1893. These are hard times. Factories closing. Workers laid off. Not many jobs. Housing not easy to find. Fact, people are calling these days the “Great Panic of 1893.” And the thing is, Maks’s family’s rent is due this week. Fifteen bucks! For them, that’s huge.

All I’m saying is, Maks’s family needs him to earn his share, which is—you guessed it—eight cents a day.

Now, most days when Maks finishes selling his papers, he likes staying in the neighborhood to see how his newsie pals have done. Don’t forget, this is New York City. The Lower East Side. Something always happening.

This night all Maks wants to do is to get home and eat. No surprise; he’s hungry twenty-five hours a day, eight days a week. And last time he ate was breakfast—a roll and a bowl of coffee-milk.

So Maks holds up his last newspaper and gives it his best bark: “Extra! Extra! Read all ’bout it! ‘Joe Gorker, Political Boss, Accused of Stealing Millions from City! Trial Date Set! Others Arrested!’ Read it in The World! World’s greatest newspaper. Just two cents! Only two cents!”

Sure, sometimes crying headlines, Maks gets to head doodling that someday he’ll be in the paper for doing something great, like maybe making a flying machine. So The World would pop his picture on its first page, like this here mug Joe Gorker. Then Maks reminds himself that his job is selling the news, not being it. Besides, The World is always laying down lines ’bout Joe Gorker, screaming that the guy is a grifter-grafter so crooked that he could pass for a pretzel.

Anyway, Maks’s shout works ’cause next moment, a fancy gent—top hat, handlebar mustache, starched white collar, what some people call a “swell stiff”wags a finger at him.

Maks runs over.

The guy shows a nickel. “Got change, kid?”

“Sorry, sir. No, sir.”

I know: Maks may be my hero, but he ain’t no saint. Like I told you, for him, pennies are big. Needs all he can get.

“Fine,” says the swell. “Keep the change.”

“Thank you, sir!” Maks says as he slings his last sheet to this guy.

The guy walks off, reading the headlines.

Maks, telling himself his day is done, pops the nickel into his pocket. Except no sooner does he do that than who does he see?

He sees Bruno.

This Bruno is one serious nasty fella. Taller than Maks by a head, his face is sprinkled with peach fuzz, greasy red hair flopping over his eyes, one of which is squinty, and on his head he’s got a tipped-back brown derby, which makes his ears stick out like cute cauliflowers.

But the thing is, Bruno may be only seventeen years old, but he’s head of the Plug Ugly Gang. Lately, Bruno and his gang have been slamming World newsies, beating ’em up, stealing their money, burning their papers.

So Maks knows if Bruno is giving him the eye, things gonna be bad. And it’s not just ’bout being robbed. If Maks loses his money, he ain’t gonna be able to buy papers for next day. No papers, no more money and the family rent don’t get paid. In other words, no choice. Maks has to get home with his money.

Trouble is, his home is a three-room tenement flat over to Birmingham Street, near the East River. That’s fifteen big blocks away, which, right now, feels as far as the North Pole.

In other words, if Maks wants to keep his money, he’s gonna have to either outrun that Plug Ugly or fight him.

Don’t know ’bout you, but Maks would rather run.

© 2011 Avi Wortis

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 26 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2012

    Awsome

    If your a slow reader its okay there aren't really big words just purpusly miss spelled words and slang so you can capture ya now like how real people talk every day .I recomend this book for ages 10+.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

    BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I've never read anything as good as city of orphans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Great!!!!!

    I love this book! It was a little slow in the beging but it got better as it went on.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2013

    Great

    I think the book was wonderful

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    Marisa January 27, 2013

    This book is the best book ever! Its so sad when actually I won't tell you because who ever didn't read it I will tell them the two best parts. You guys get this book. This is the best book in exsistints! Read it, read it, read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    City of Orphans awesomeness

    I love City of Orphans!!!!! It's one of Avi's best works!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2012

    Should i?

    Hey im eleven and a slow reader... i can handle biolence language and all that stuff... shiuld i read this?

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    What happened to Agnes?

    WRITE BACK

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    This is one of the best books i have ever read

    Once you read it, you can't stop. I am a slow reader,and i read it nonstop in less than a day. I suggest this book to anyone who can deal with violence,because it has a great mural.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2012

    Best book i've ever read!!

    Exelent!!!!!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2011

    Avi is the best!

    This looks like a great book! Avi is my fav author

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2014

    best book I have ever read in my whole life!!!!

    best book I have ever read in my whole life!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2014

    City of orphans review byE.B

    City of orphans is an fantastic tale of Willa and Maks. Maks is an newsie and he gets kind of beet up by bruno but willa saves him but you have to read more to gind out!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2014

     

     

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    AMAZING

    Im reading this book at my school its amazing so far


    Cami:)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2013

    AWESOME

    I am reading this at school but we have a 4 week Christmas break and.... I forgot it at school so I am going to get it!!!!!!!!!!!
    I recomend this bookI am in 4th grade and I am 9 so it is a good read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2013

    Best book yet!

    I have read some of AVI's books but this one is the best! So voilent,epic, and awesome!lf you are okey with bleading noses- read this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Love it so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    Very good book.

    This is a book about a girl who lives in the streets. Then one day she saves a boy from a gang.( read the book to find out how). Later he invites her to come live with his family. A very good book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews

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