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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Newbery Medalist Karen Cushman takes readers on a 19th-century journey westward in this engaging novel about one Polish orphan's uncertain train ride.
When 12-year-old Rodzina boards the orphan train in Chicago, she's not sure where she'll end up. One thing's for sure, however: the strong-willed girl "would rather die right here and now" than be with parents who make her "a nurse, a cook, and a slave." As she and 20 other children travel toward California, the train stops in Omaha, Cheyenne, and several other towns, where Mr. Szprot and "Miss Doctor" (the orphans' hard-line chaperones) almost place Rodzina with folks not up to snuff. But when Rodzina sees a posting for "miners and ranchers...seek[ing] women to share their prosperity," she secretly hops aboard a train bound for Reno, Nevada, to start her own family. Thankfully, though, Miss Doctor turns up in Reno to find her, and the two head to California for a new beginning together.
With a main character whose sure-minded attitude evokes memories of previous heroines, Cushman delivers a pleasant read that sheds light on this little-known part of U.S. history. Anyone interested in immigrant culture and self-sufficient kids will find Rodzina enlightening, while educators in particular will want to add Cushman's book to their discussions. Shana Taylor