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Children's LiteratureNellie's Promise is a heartwarming story of trust and friendship set in New York in 1906. It is a companion to the Samantha books which are part of the "American Girl" series. Like Samantha, Nellie is an orphan. Unlike Samantha, Nellie has the responsibility of taking care of her two younger siblings because of a promise she's made to her late mother. The story begins after Nellie and her sisters have been taken in by Samantha's generous Aunt Cornelia and Uncle Gard. However, all is not well. Nellie's closest relative, Uncle Mike, who inherited and abandoned the girls, discovers Nellie and threatens to take custody of them again. This time Uncle Mike says that he will make them work in a factory. Nellie, not wanting Samantha and her family to worry, keeps things to herself. But this secret proves to be a heavy burden, one that threatens her friendship with Samantha and takes her foster parents by surprise. In the end, Uncle Gard and Aunt Cornelia find out about Uncle Mike and adopt Nellie and her sisters officially. This book demonstrates the harsh realities of life that many children have faced in the U.S. While the dialog at times feels forced, this book would be a good addition to a social studies or history class learning about children's rights, social class and immigration issues in the early twentieth century. At the close of the book, a nonfiction section provides more information and photos of actual orphans and working class girls. 2004, Pleasant Company Publications, Ages 8 up.
—Michelle Negron Bueno