Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Christina Baker Kline
In this young reader adaptation of her adult book Orphan Train, Kline tells the story of Molly Ayer, a young girl who's been moved around frequently in foster homes. When Molly gets into trouble one day, she has to do twenty hours of community service with Vivian Daly, an elderly woman in her town. She's supposed to help Vivian clean out her attic, which has accumulated belongings and memories for years, but the project turns into a way for Vivian to tell her life story to someone who understands. Like Molly, Vivian became an orphan in the late 1920s and was passed from house to house. As they begin to understand each other, Molly is able to better deal with her own situation and even help Vivian tie up some loose ends from her past.
Told through alternating perspectives, this book is a richly detailed and historically accurate account of the orphan trains, a little known event in US history. More than that, it's a heartwarming and, at times, heart-wrenching story of what makes a home and a family, as well as how shared experiences can bring people closer together. The story is engaging and easy for young readers to connect to, even if they don't share the same experience as Molly or Vivian. It's also an interesting way to learn more about US history and how events from the past can still affect people in the present. A delightful read that would intrigue any young reader, especially someone interested in historical fiction.