Thursday, March 19, 2020

42. Orphan Train Girl

Orphan Train Girl. Christina Baker Kline. 2017. 234 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Adaptation of an Adult Book; j fiction; j historical fiction; j realistic fiction]

First sentence: “Well,” Jack’s mom says from the driver’s seat. “This is it.”

Premise/plot: Molly, our contemporary heroine, is in foster care. She’s a young teen girl with defenses in place, a definite “bad” attitude as far as most adults are concerned. But Vivian, our senior heroine, isn’t most adults. She knows what it’s like to be an orphan, to be bounced around from home to home, unwanted and easily blamed, prone to being misunderstood. She came with her family from Ireland. Her family perished in a fire. She soon found herself on a west bound orphan train heading to the Midwest. Both stories unfold as the two clean up an attic.

My thoughts: At first I was impatient with this one. I fell so hard for Niamh-Dorothy-Vivian’s story that I didn’t want to be bothered with the contemporary story. Then I realized that some things haven’t changed all that much. Molly’s experiences in foster care aren’t all that different from Vivian’s on the orphan train and perhaps more importantly Molly’s story realistically represents some modern foster kids. There certainly isn’t one universal experience for the foster care experience, but some kids do get bounced around, moved around, rejected, face criticism, bullying, and even abuse. Some kids are wanted and adopted. Some find the happily ever after dream with a caring family. But many don’t. Holding onto hope when you could just as easily age up out of the system without experiencing unconditional love and a sense of belonging can be tough. Everyone needs to feel seen, loved, known. Molly isn’t—at least at the start of this one. Vivian and Molly connecting felt magical.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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