4.7 11
by Karen Cushman

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Rodzina Clara Jadwiga Anastazya Brodski is the new face in Karen Cushman’s gallery of unforgettable heroines. One of a group of orphans, 12-year-old Rodzina boards a train on a cold day in March 1881. She’s reluctant to leave Chicago, the only home she can remember, and she knows there’s no substitute for the family she has lost. She expects to be…  See more details below


Rodzina Clara Jadwiga Anastazya Brodski is the new face in Karen Cushman’s gallery of unforgettable heroines. One of a group of orphans, 12-year-old Rodzina boards a train on a cold day in March 1881. She’s reluctant to leave Chicago, the only home she can remember, and she knows there’s no substitute for the family she has lost. She expects to be adopted and turned into a slave—or worse, not to be adopted at all.

As the train rattles westward, Rodzina unwittingly begins to develop attachments to her fellow travelers, even the frosty orphan guardian, and to accept the idea that there might be good homes for orphans—maybe even for a big, combative Polish girl. But no placement seems right for the formidable Rodzina, and she cleverly finds a way out of one bad situation after another, until at last she finds the family that is right for her.

Once again, Karen Cushman brings us a compelling story that is thoroughly researched, full of memorable characters, and told with wry humor and keen observation by an absolutely captivating narrator. Afterword.

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Editorial Reviews
The 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[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

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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193 KB
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

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Chicago, 1881

On a cold Monday morning in March, when a weak, pale sun struggled to shine and ice glistened in the cracks in the wooden street, a company of some twenty-two orphan children with stiff new clothes and little cardboard suitcases boarded a special railway car at the station near the Chicago River. I know, because I was one of them.
The station was noisier and more confused than Halsted Street on market day. Travelers carrying featherbeds and bundles wrapped in blue gingham cloth shoved me aside in their hurry to get here or there. A man in a bright red jacket bumped into me and apologized in a language I did not know. At least I assumed it was an apology, because of all the bowing and tipping of his hat, so I said, "It's all right, mister, but I'd say you should know a little English if you expect to get wherever you're going." He tipped his hat again.
One woman, burdened with children, blankets, a tin kettle, and a three-legged stove, finally put that stove right down on the platform, sat herself atop it, and began to cry. I knew how she felt. I myself was a mite worried—not scared, being twelve and no baby like Evelyn or Gertie to be afraid of every little thing, but worried, yes. It was all so loud and disorderly and unfamiliar.
I forced my way through the crowd and grabbed on to a belt in front of me. The boy it belonged to said, "Hang on tight, Rodzina, afore we're swept into the lake like sewage." It was Spud, whom I knew from the Little Wanderers' Refuge. He and Chester, Gertie, Horton, Rose and Pearl Lubnitz, the baby Evelyn, and I—we had been there together. The others were from the Infant Hospital and the Orphan Asylum near Hyde Park. Orphans, all of us, carrying all we owned in our two hands, pushing and shoving like everyone else.
A lady, standing straight and tall in a black suit and stiff white shirtwaist, put her hands up to her mouth and shouted, but I could not hear much over the din. I finally gathered that she was from the Orphan Asylum and was calling us all together. Letting go of Spud's belt, I stretched myself even taller so I could get a better look at her over that expanse of heads. She was pale and thin, her mouth ill-humored, and her gray eyes as cold and sharp as the wire rims of her spectacles. I should have known they would not send someone kind and good-natured to accompany a carload of orphans.
Roaring and cursing, a short, barrel-shaped man togged out in a checked jacket and yellow shoes pushed his way through the crowd. "You! Orphans!" he shouted, the cigar in the corner of his mouth waving and waggling with his words. "Pipe down! I am Mr. Szprot, the placing-out agent for the Association of Aid Societies. That means I am the boss and you do what I tell you. You are, you know, none of you, too young to go to Hell. Or to jail. So shut your mugs and line up." After my time on the street I was used to being threatened with Hell, so it didn't bother me much, but still I shut my mug. There was silence from the other orphans too, and we walked noiselessly to the train.
Trains had hooted and rumbled behind our house on Honore Street, but I had never seen a locomotive up so close, looming like the fearful dragon of Wawel Hill in the story Auntie Manya used to tell, its smokestack belching sparks, and a line of cars trailing behind like a tail of wood and iron. If I had been younger or smaller, even I might have been scared.
Getting on this train had not been my idea. I wanted to go home. But I had no home anymore, except the Little Wanderers' Refuge, and they had sent me away to be sold as a slave. I knew that because a kid on the street, Melvin, had told me. "That orphanage ships kids on trains to the west," he said. "In freight cars. Don't feed 'em or nothin'. Sells 'em to families that want slaves." He shook his head. "Orphans never come to no good end." I found that easy to believe, so I believed every word.
No, I surely did not want to get on the train, but the crowd of orphans shoved me onward. The long black wool stockings they'd given me at the orphan home itched something fierce, and pausing midway up the iron steps, I bent down to scratch my knees. Three orphans knocked right into me.
"You, Polish girl," said Mr. Szprot, his voice even louder than his jacket, "try not to be so clumsy."
A big boy behind me snickered. "Clumsy Polish girl," he said. "Ugly cabbage eater." Accidentally on purpose I swung my suitcase and cracked him on the knee. I knew he wouldn't try to get even with Mr. Szprot so close.
Once up the steps, I looked back. This was the last I'd ever see of Chicago, this view of soot and ice and metal tracks. On such a cold, gray, blustery morning, it looked like a dead place, but at least it was familiar. Chicago had always meant Mama and Papa and the boys. Now Mama and Papa and the boys were gone, home was gone, and soon Chicago would be gone. I felt like I was jumping out a seventh-story window, not at all sure someone was down below to catch me. I scratched my knees again and, holding tight to my suitcase, went in.

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Rodzina 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Karen Cushman has taken one, not so small orphan, and placed twelve-year-old Rodzina Brodski, and some other 21 orphans, on the legendary orphan train heading west so all of the child outcast aboard have their chance at kissing-up to find a home. Rodzina is not just an orphan, but a large, stubborn, polish girl, that does not want to go west to be adopted, but to stay in Chicago at the Little Wanderer¿s Refuge. Too bad it¿s only a place where kids on the street may live temporarily, so she obviously had no choice. Aboard the train, Rodzina was ordered by Miss Doctor ¿ Miss don¿t touch¿ as Rodzina would say, to tend to the other children, do to the fact she was the oldest one there. Lacey a feebleminded little girl, leisurely over time became Rodzinas friend. While traveling from station to station, Rodzina is sad, full of loneliness, memories of her family, happy and excited at times, and a heart full of hope. All in all, Rodzina is a wonderful book, and completely deserves the medal it won.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Rodzina is a wonderful and enchanting book that portrays the life of an orphan beautifully . Rodzina is a young orphan girl who¿s parents died in accident¿s. Rodzina¿s life is an exiting and mysterious story. Food loving Rodzina will enchant you with feelings that make you want to cry. If you like ¿Anne of Green Gables¿ you¿ll love this exiting book. As the mysteries of Rodzina¿s life unfold and she tries to find the meaning of her life. An enchanting story that keeps you captivated to the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. I finished it really quick and was disappointed that it was over, so I read it again!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rodzina is a bitter sweet heartwarming story about a girl named Rodzina. She is an orphan who lives on a train because the train travels around to find famlies for the kids. Rodzina and her friends have a can as a bathroom and basically live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches. All readers of realistic fiction will love Rodzina. It will make you want to keep reading until it is finished.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rodzina is a sad firceful journey for Rodizna to take. She is an orphan who is on a train a lot and eats peanut butter and Jelly sandwhiches for all of her meals. Her bathroom is a can in the back of the train. I highly recomend this book to anyone in 4th and 5th grade. You will enjoy it and not want to put it down until you finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The reason I put this headline is because it shows that Rodzina hoped that someone will love her. Rodzina is a Polish girl that ends up in a train with other orphans. It turns out, that orphans aren't going to find a good place to live, because a guy named Melvin called people to adopt orphans as slaves. Rodzina didn't have to go to a bad family, because Miss Doctor adopted her. Miss Doctor and Rodzina started a new life in California. I recommended this book to everyone, because it shows that if you lose someone you dearly cared about, you can love another person that you now dearly care about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rodzina is a girl that has lost her parents and must board an orphan train.I love books about orphans beacause their stories ( even fiction ) are more touching. But, this has got to be one of my favorites!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is just as fun for kids as Harry Potter. Like Harry Potter Rodzina has lost both her parents, but unlike Harry Potter she lacks all the magic and charm. The book is more of a historical fiction set in the 1800s. It tells the story of destitute orphans made to live with rural families as free child labor. This is the story of one of those orphans. Rodzina, proud of her Polish heritage, and unwilling to lose her identity, struggles to maintain her self-worth living with a family that treats her like a commodity. Two other books I highly recommend for children are: The Butterfly (Jay Singh) and The Little Prince (Saint-Exupery). And the one book I supremely recommend to all: The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho).
Guest More than 1 year ago
The girl's name and description of the book's theme has compelled me to buy this -- I am certain I will love it. 'Rodzina' means 'family' in English -- how appropriate (and clever of Cushman)!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Rodzina' is a wonderful book. It is about an orphan who is traveling west on an orphan train, trying to find a home. She ends up in a few bad homes, but finds a way to get out of them and back to the train. On the train, she meets many fellow orphans. You get to know them very well--it's almost as if you are riding the train yourself. The ending of the book is great, too. This book is a wonderful story telling about the quest to find a home. Highly recommended.