We Rode the Orphan Trains Hardcover – Oct 29 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Warren (Orphan Train Rider) here interviews eight orphan train riders concerning their childhood experiences during "the largest children's migration in history" between 1854 and 1929 as part of a "placing out" program run by the Children's Aid Society of New York City. The stories reflect the diversity of the train itself, from Nettie, who discusses how she and her identical twin, Nellie, escaped their first sadistic adoptive mother to find a loving home with an older couple, to Art Smith, whose daydreams of an actress mother were shattered when he discovered he was a baby "left in a basket in Gimbel's Department Store." Many of the profiles include well-chosen details that will tug at readers' heartstrings, such as Sister Justina, who celebrated the wrong birth date for 57 years, or little Ruth, who initially refused to take her arms off the dinner table after years of protecting her food from grabby, hungry orphans. Black-and-white photographs effectively highlight the stories. Though some of the accounts focus too much on adult discoveries, ultimately the anecdotes about these brave and lonely children will keep readers traveling on this train. Ages 9-12.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Warren's story of nine-year-old Lee Nailling in Orphan Train Rider (Houghton, 1996) opened a window onto a disturbing period of American history in which children were both victims and heroes. In this follow-up volume, she relates the personal histories of eight men and women-now senior citizens-who were orphaned or abandoned as children and later traveled across the country in trains to meet strangers who would become their new family members. An introductory chapter describes the appalling numbers of homeless children in 19th-century America's large eastern cities and explains how poverty and disease as well as high rates of alcohol and drug addiction contributed to a problem that continued into the 20th century. The personal histories, based on interviews that Warren conducted with her subjects, are rich and compelling and so full of dramatic twists and turns that they could have been conceived by Charles Dickens. Hunger, fear, and isolation are the most common recollections of the men and women who speak from these pages. Fortunately these stories all have happy endings, testimony to the resilience of children and the kindness of strangers. The author also includes information about early social activists such as Charles Loring Brace, who established New York City's Children's Aid Society in 1853. These remarkable stories have enormous human-interest appeal and will provoke serious discussion about just how much life has really changed for children from the last century until today.
William McLoughlin, Brookside School, Worthington, OH
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book is packed with useful information and invaluable to anyone learning about the orphan trains. Two introductory chapters help you understand what the orphan trains is all about. The next seven chapters deal with the lives of seven riders and include excerpts and background on each rider. The last chapter discusses briefly the future of the orphan trains. You don't have to wade through a huge, heavy book on the history of orphans to learn about the orphan trains. We Rode the Orphan Trains presents the material in an enjoyable manner and whether you're writing a paper or reading just for pleasure, this book fulfills both tasks.
The novel is very well written and thought provoking. Not all people agreed with the orphan trains. Some thought it unfair and cruel to "give away" children to complete strangers. Many times siblings could not be taken together. Others argued that the orphan trains were the best way to find homes for orphaned children. Shelters and orphanages were often poor and overcrowded with kids. Also, after children were placed in a home, an agent came every year to check on them, much like modern day adoption.
We Rode the Orphan Trains is, unlike some history books, fun and easy to read and understand. If you're enjoying something it's likely you'll get more out of it. Fast paced and overall fascinating are adjectives I'd use to describe this book. The narratives of the various people interviewed are interesting to read and lead you into the mind of the orphans who rode the orphan trains.
I highly recommend We Rode the Orphan Trains. It contains great historical information presented in a lucid and engaging style.
Please read the comments. It changes everything.
Rather than curse the darkness, the Children's Aid Society of New York, tried to light that one small candle.
As imperfect as that candle may have been, the CAS tried to do something, something that, in the end, led to better lives for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children orphaned and alone in New York.
There were, of course--there had to be--stories that did not have happy endings, but this book offers positive stories of the Orphan Trains as told by the children, now aged adults, who lived through the experience and, for the most part, thrived and lived happy, fulfilling lives. There is some mention of children--brothers and sisters usually--who did not fare well after being separated from their siblings, but for the most part this is a story of Orphan Train successes. Yet, as positive and uplifting as this book is--and it is positive and uplifting--there is a lingering feeling that this is a sanitized version of the Orphan Train story.
A haunting image comes to mind again and again when thinking about the Orphan Trains. What must it have been like, what must it have felt like, to have been the only child not chosen, to have been the last child on the train when it reached the end of the line and you still haven't been chosen. One can't imagine the feelings of unworthiness and loneliness that child must have felt.
This book doesn't eliminate that thought, that concern, but it does celebrate success stories, and while that may not be the whole story of the Orphan Trains, it is a worthwhile thing to do. Better to light that one candle...
A parting thought: The Children's Aid Society didn't just ship these children off, find places for them to live and forget about them, leaving them on their own to fend for themselves. Every year the Society sent someone west to check on the children as best they could in a continuing effort to let them know they were not forgotten and not alone. 'Tis good to light that candle and to keep it burning.
However imperfect that candle may have been...
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- Books > Children's Books > History > United States > 1800s
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