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by John Weber

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Mary Ann Darby
During the Great Depression, Homer lives in rural Iowa, where he expects to take over his family farm one day. On his thirteenth birthday, however, his father baldly announces that Homer is adopted. Without waiting to hear more, Homer runs away, his adoption paper in hand, determined to find his birth parents in New York City. His best friend, Jamie, reluctantly accompanies him. Almost immediately the pair runs into trouble in the form of a vicious railroad bully, but they are rescued by Smilin' Jack, a kind and seasoned hobo. Jack teaches the boys the ways of the hobo as they elude railroad officials, help others along the way, and meet kindly whorehouse matrons in one town. Jamie becomes desperately ill and is near death by the time they reach New York City, but more kindness comes to the rescue, and Homer learns that family is not just about blood relation. Weber has an interesting story to tell and creates a strong picture of the hobo world of the Depression, and also shines a light on the concept of family in all its dimensions. However, Weber relies on dialogue to advance the story, and his characters, with the exception of Jamie, do not feel real or fully developed. Homer's dialect, in particular, never rings true. If teachers want a follow-up to Irene Hunt's No Promises in the Wind (Berkley, 2002), or if libraries want more Depression-era fiction, this fits the bill. Reviewer: Mary Ann Darby
Charlotte Wood
When Homer turns 13, he finds out he's an orphan. Startled and traumatized by the truth of his past, he runs away from Iowa to New York City, taking his best friend, Jamie, with him. Their adventure doesn't go as planned, however. After a dangerous run-in with a railroad detective, Homer and Jamie partner up with the hobo Smilin' Jack and take a detour that takes them through much of the United States. On their journey, they learn about the hobo lifestyle and learn more about not only survival but also themselves. Eventually Jamie and Homer make it to New York City, but Jamie falls deathly ill. Only then does Homer realize what his impulsiveness could cost him—his own family and Jamie's family back home. Orphan is a book best suited to a younger audience, maybe even middle grade. The plot is action-driven with endearing characters. Reviewer: Charlotte Wood
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Life in the early 1930s is illuminated by this tale of two pals, impetuous Homer and more-thoughtful Jamie. Growing up in rural, northwest Iowa, Homer is shocked when his plain-speaking farmer father tells him on his 13th birthday that he, Homer, was adopted off an orphan train as a toddler. Convinced that he'll never, thus, inherit the farm he loves, he is determined to go to New York City to find his biological parents and drafts Jamie to assist. Along the way, they encounter a violent, pedophile railroad "bull" in Kansas City, are rescued by an honorable hobo, and are helped by a variety of kindly folks including Big Lottie in her Dubuque whorehouse; a friendly railroad porter in Ohio; and by a girl they call Sam, now living in New York, whom they befriended during her earlier, brief stay in their Iowa community. The author cleverly incorporates the use of the telephone party line as a sort of pre-digital Facebook. Death by illness, deprivation, and poverty are realistically shown to have been the order of the day. Less successful is the repeated use of postcards and letters to move the plot along and inconsistent pacing. Most of the period details are on target. The boys' changing relationship and personal growth are well handled, and the themes about self-reliance, sharing, and following your dreams are clear. Recommend to readers who like their history personal.—Joel Shoemaker, formerly at South East Junior High School, Iowa City, IA

Product Details

Westside Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
HL740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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