What do an onion-headed boy, a child-sized hedgehog, and a tattooed girl have in common? They are all orphans at Oddfellow's Orphanage! This unusual early chapter book began life as a series of full-color portraits with character descriptions. Author/illustrator Emily Martin has fleshed out the world of Oddfellow's with an episodic story that follows a new orphan, Delia, as she discovers the delights of her new home. From classes in Cryptozoology and Fairy Tale Studies to trips to the circus, from Annual Hair ...
What do an onion-headed boy, a child-sized hedgehog, and a tattooed girl have in common? They are all orphans at Oddfellow's Orphanage! This unusual early chapter book began life as a series of full-color portraits with character descriptions. Author/illustrator Emily Martin has fleshed out the world of Oddfellow's with an episodic story that follows a new orphan, Delia, as she discovers the delights of her new home. From classes in Cryptozoology and Fairy Tale Studies to trips to the circus, from Annual Hair Cutting Day to a sea monster-sighting field trip, things at Oddfellows are anything but ordinary . . . except when it comes to friendships. And in that, Oddfellows is like any other school where children discover what they mean to each other while learning how big the world really is.
In Oddfellow's Orphanage, Emily Martin brings a very strange place to life with her unique style of both art and writing.
Martin’s poignant and gently humorous debut novel is set in an unusual orphanage. The story grew out of portraits of the characters Martin drew, which appear throughout, accompanied by pithy explanations of how each resident came to live at the orphanage. The headmaster is Oddfellow Bluebeard (“a distant relation of the more famous Bluebeard”), who is “as gentle and kind as the other Bluebeard was cruel.” The story centers on newcomer Delia, a silent albino girl whose fellow orphans include a kind girl with pet finches; a spunky tattooed girl; a ravenous hedgehog; and Ollie, an upbeat boy with an onion for a head. Their adventures (pictured in the book’s abundant spot art) balance fantasy and reality: they discover a lake monster, enjoy a sumptuous picnic, view a mermaid fossil, watch the orphanage’s resident bear family perform at a circus, and enjoy a traditional Christmas. The novel’s cheerful tenor is occasionally tempered by the orphans’ memories of their former families, yet the new, loving bonds they’ve formed shine through. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 7–10. Agent: Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Jan.)
- Leona Illig
When Delia, a little girl who is mute, arrives at Oddfellow's Orphanage, she soon learns to expect the unexpected. Every orphan is unique, from the boy with the head of an onion to a hedgehog the size of a child. But in one aspect they are alike: they all need to find a home in a community of friends and kind teachers who are willing to show them the way. The fourteen chapters generally focus on one of the orphans or teachers. The first page provides some history about the individual, while the rest of the chapter relates an adventure that involves that person. Beyond the elements of setting and time, there is no linear plot. Instead, each chapter represents a discreet story that picks up on various threads of the theme. This is an unusual book, and not just because of the uncommon characters. In its pages you will not find scary images, life or death struggles, crises of conscience, or slang. What you will find are gentle tales about children learning about life and the world, told in language that is a pleasure to read. The author has illustrated the book with simple pictures in brown tones, reminiscent of charcoal drawings; the text is also printed in a shade of brown. Since the stories include magical characters as well as real-life phenomena, they will probably appeal to younger readers. Parents may also choose to read a chapter at a time to children who are not yet able to read at this level (at 126 pages, the book cannot be easily read in one sitting). Both children and parents will find this quiet, delightful story a welcome change from the usual popular fare for children. Reviewer: Leona Illig
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—This debut novel chronicles a young orphan, Delia, and her arrival and life at Oddfellow's Orphanage. The institution seems to attract unique characters, including a tattooed girl, a young hedgehog, and a boy with an onion head. While the characters are unusual, the book lacks a plot and a true story line. Dialogue is limited, with readers learning about the residents through brief cameo pages that open each chapter. Even the story of how Delia comes to arrive at the orphanage isn't revealed until the blurb before the last chapter, which informs readers that she is an albino who was saved from a horrible attack in the sideshow where she worked by pretending to be a pile of laundry. The author has been a successful online artist, and this book appears to be a way to build a story around some of her prints, but the quaint illustrations will not be enough to keep readers interested.—Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH
An undeniably charming story about the characters, albeit one-dimensional, who form a family at Oddfellow's Orphanage. Headmaster Oddfellow Bluebeard, tame relation to the infamous Bluebeard, and Professor Stella dash off at night to rescue Delia. By morning, they have brought her back to Oddfellow's Orphanage, haven to peculiar children orphaned by events natural, unexplained or, in two cases, jarringly violent. Here, bears dance, cooks serve hot chocolate and staff call their charges "dear." The residents include Delia, who does not speak (readers never find out exactly why), tattooed Imogen, Hugo the hedgehog boy, "onion-headed" Ollie and several others, some of whom do not merit more than a mention. In her debut, Martin relies on third-person narration and uses adjectives such as "cozy," "twinkling" and "pretty" to set a scene of happy companionship. Although somewhat reminiscent of Hogwarts, with classes such as cryptozoology ("the study of mysterious and possibly imagined animals") and F.T. ("fairy tales and folktales") Studies, readers will find no bullies or evil at Oddfellow's. The rare time that one child misbehaves, all is forgiven. Small, safe adventures take place between March and New Year's, when a new babe appears on the doorstep. Pencil drawings appear throughout (final art not seen), adding to the feeling of warmth. An uneven effort; still, youngsters not ready for Harry Potter will find comfort here. (Fantasy. 7-10)
EMILY WINFIELD MARTIN sketches, paints, and stitches to create imaginary worlds and characters. She is the author/illustrator of The Black Apple's Paper Doll Primer. Her store, The Black Apple, has been featured in national publications and on TV shows, including the New York Times and The Martha Stewart Show.
Oddfellow's Orphanage is both Emily's first book for children and her first novel! The inspiration came from the real I.O.O.F. (Independent Order of Oddfellows), dancing bears, ragtime music, and magic and mysterium of all sorts. Originally, Emily painted portraits of the children and adults at the imaginary orphanage, and from the portraits the stories emerged—enough to fill a book!
Emily lives among the giant fir trees of Portland, Oregon, with her fellow adventurer, Josiah, and their cat Miette. Visit her on line at the blackapple.typepad.com or etsy.com/shop/theblackapple.