Orphan Train

Orphan Train

by Verla Kay, Ken Stark
     
 

Lucy, Harold, and David have recently become orphans and have no family left, no one to take care of them. They are living on the streets, stealing what they need to survive, like thousands of other unfortunate kids in the early 1900s.

Then they get lucky. Lucy and her little brothers are welcomed into an orphanage where they get clean clothes and warm meals.

Overview

Lucy, Harold, and David have recently become orphans and have no family left, no one to take care of them. They are living on the streets, stealing what they need to survive, like thousands of other unfortunate kids in the early 1900s.

Then they get lucky. Lucy and her little brothers are welcomed into an orphanage where they get clean clothes and warm meals. But this orphanage sends groups of children to the Midwest on orphan trains. They are paraded in front of farmers who pick and choose kids they want to take home-and David is taken at one of the first stops, without Lucy or Harold.

Verla Kay's celebrated verse has been called "lyrical" and "rollicking" and Ken Stark's warm, poignant paintings have been described as "as sun-dappled as a happy memory." Together, they make the plight of these orphans both heartbreaking and hopeful.

Illustrated by Ken Stark

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Lucy and her two brothers, older Harold and little David, are orphaned in a non-specific East coast city and forced to beg until some kindly people put them in an orphanage. From there, they board an orphan train to the West. David is chosen first, and at a later stop, both of the older children are "taken," and Lucy goes to a kindly farm family. Longing for her brothers, she slowly learns to do farm work and later reunites in church with Harold. They wonder if they will ever see David. Stark's dark acrylic paintings picture the grimy browned city with a gradually lightening palette as the train moves west into green spaces and fresh air. The short rhymed text on each page is not enough to help readers through the many missing details: the parents must have died (they were "deathly ill") but the text and pictures don't indicate that. Readers must infer the passing seasons as well as the changing geography and emotions and must speculate on the open-ended conclusion. The intended young reader of this picture book will certainly wonder what happened to little David and if his siblings ever found him. They also don't have much historical context to hang this story on and a formidable and off-putting author's note at the story's beginning will need to be paraphrased to them, as it is directed at adults. However, as an introduction to orphan trains, teachers of older readers can use this picture book alongside Andrea Warren's strong nonfiction Orphan Train Rider and Joan Lowery Nixon's "Orphan Train" series to introduce these longer, more demanding novels. 2003, Putnam's,
School Library Journal
This verse narrative describes the terrible urban conditions that from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s led to the creation of the orphan trains. The outbreak of typhoid fever in crowded urban areas, and the resulting deaths, left many children without parents and resulted in severely crowded orphanages. The response was to load these destitute children onto trains and relocate them to rural communities out west where there was a need for strong young workers. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Preteen Lucy and her two younger brothers David and Harold are orphaned in a large Eastern city in the late-19th century and chosen to be riders on the orphan train. David, the elder of the brothers, leaves the train first. At a later stop, two different families select Harold and Lucy. Lucy adapts quickly to farm life and is overjoyed to see Harold at church on Sunday; they wonder if they�ll ever see David again. Kay�s singsong, cryptic verse is at odds with her subject matter. "Horses clip-clop, / Streets unclean. / Typhoid fever, / Quarantine!" Her words are as carefully chosen and evocative as ever, but they don�t fit the story. Presenting the death of parents and life on the streets in this manner feels like a trivialization of the subjects. The storytelling method better fits the tale once they reach the orphanage. Stark�s acrylic paintings are another matter entirely. He takes readers from the American version of Dickensian squalor to bucolic prairie bliss in the space of a few pages. These beautiful, impressionistic illustrations deserve a more appropriate text. (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399236136
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
05/12/2003
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.36(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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