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Train to Somewhere
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Gr 2-4‘From the mid-19th century until after World War I, thousands of homeless "orphans" were sent West by charitable agencies to find homes with families seeking workers, children to adopt, or mother's helpers. In telling the story of one child, Bunting encapsulates the fears and sometimes happy endings of those fateful trips. Marianne is among the oldest and least attractive of the 14 children sent on a train to the Midwest, and she starts the journey with hopes that her mother will be waiting at one of the stops. At each station, papers are signed and children are placed, until only Marianne remains when the last town of Somewhere is reached. Only an elderly couple, hoping for a boy, is waiting there. They look kindly at Marianne, and the grandmotherly wife sums up the story's theme when she remarks that "Sometimes what you get turns out to be better than what you wanted in the first place." By making this slice of American history into an appealing tale, Bunting offers an opportunity to compare present-day social policies with those of times past. The book is timely yet universal in showing the desire of every child for a loving family. Himler's full-page, bordered paintings portray the people and towns in warm colors and softly blended brush strokes. Beyond this gentle story lie the social issues of our own day.‘Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ

"A moving piece of Americana from a veteran team, introducing the orphan trains of the 19th and early 20th century to a picture-book audience. . . . A reminder that the good old days were not so idyllic; this book will have a place in the history curriculum, but it's also an involving read-aloud." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers

"The book is timely yet universal in showing the desire of every child for a loving family. Himler's full-page, bordered paintings portray the people and towns in warm colors and softly blended brush strokes. Beyond this gentle story lie the social issues of our own day." School Library Journal, Starred

"A heartbreaking picture book tells the story of the nineteenth-century Orphan Train in the voice of the plain girl nobody wants. Himler's beautiful, understated paintings show the train steaming across the prairie and the children trying to smile and look their best, hoping that someone will adopt them." Booklist, Editor's Choice

Inspired by a little-known chapter of American history, this characteristically incisive collaboration from Bunting and Himler (Someday a Tree, see p. 90; Fly Away Home) imagines a journey on one of the many "Orphan Trains" that, between the mid-1850s and the late 1920s, brought children from New York City orphanages to adoptive families in the West. The narrator of this finely crafted, heart-wrenching story is Marianne, a plain girl secretly dreaming of being reunited with her own mother, who promised to return for Marianne after making a new life for them in the West. Bunting ably weaves the girl's hopes and anxieties into her perceptive account of how each of Marianne's 13 companions is chosen for adoption at the various train stations while she futilely searches the crowd for her mother. Finally only Marianne remains. In the tale's optimistic ending, Marianne finds a new family in Somewhere, Iowa, the train's last stop. Here an elderly couple, who clearly had planned on adopting a boy, take Marianne in, with ultimately comforting, resonant words: "Sometimes what you get turns out to be better than what you wanted in the first place." Himler's watercolor and gouache paintings offer polished portraits of the period as they convey the plot's considerable emotion. Like Bunting's text, his art is at once sobering and uplifting-and assuredly memorable. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)

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