The ALAN Review - Tracy Babiasz
"Many, many people have walked through these halls feeling frightened and alone. Coming to a new country is like being adopted into a new family." Thus Elvira Woodruff launches a parallel between sailing to a new country and walking into the love of a family. Orphan of Ellis Island chronicles the journeys of Dominic Cantori: one to 1908 Italy and one a personal journey in which a lonely orphan learns what it is like to be part of a family. When he is left behind on a school trip to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Dominic finds himself transported to a time and place where he feels more alone than ever. With the help of his self-appointed family, he finds that he too can enjoy a family's love. Woodruff's well-researched novel beautifully describes the similarities between an orphan and an immigrant's search for a home. Appealing to younger teenagers, the map, glossary, and pronunciation guide will add to the enjoyment of Dominic's adventure.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-6Dominic Cantori has spent most of his life in foster care. When a guide asks Dominic's fifth-grade class to talk about their families during a field trip to Ellis Island, the boy is embarrassed because he has no heritage to discuss, and hides in a storage closet where he promptly falls asleep. Waking after the museum is closed, he panics until the prerecorded voice of one of the exhibits soothes him back to sleep. When he wakes again, he finds himself in Italy in 1908. He is befriended by three orphan brothers who are waiting for sponsors to pay their passage to America. Dominic becomes part of their adventures and gains a new sense of family. When one of the brothers dies tragically, Dominic accompanies the other two to America and discovers that the boys may actually be related to him in more than just spirit. He arrives on Ellis Island, first as a new immigrant, and finally as a boy returning from a long journey, or perhaps a dream, that has given him a new sense of himself as well as hope for his future. Easy to read and hard to put down, this convincing novel gives a poignant and believable picture of the lives and motivations of some of this country's immigrants, and of one boy who learns about himself. While the time-travel element and subsequent plot twists occur almost too easily, the characters and situations are too involving to quibble about story construction. An enjoyable and informative tale.Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
A colorless adventure through time as an orphan discovers something about his past.
Fifth-grader Dominic is on a class trip to Ellis Island, thinking about how he has outgrown his unfashionable shoes and how different he is from his well-off classmates. A friendless orphan and frequently relocated foster child, Dominic has recently made an embarrassing mistake that makes him eager for the next upheaval. He longs for a family of his own; after he is accidentally locked into the park building, he makes contact with a long-dead relative and travels back to Italy in 1908. There he meets three orphan boys; desperately poor and hungry, two of them eventually make passage to the US on a ship, after illness kills the other. The boys are needy, but Dominic marvels at their sense of family, and it is eventually clear that they are his ancestors. Dominic returns, with precious knowledge of his roots, to a brighter present in the form of a new foster family. Woodruff includes details about the adventure that make it compelling, but the story is drily told and often heavy-handed.