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We Rode the Orphan Trains


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About the Author

Andrea Warren is the author of many acclaimed nonfiction books for young readers, including Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story, which won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Andrea lives in Kansas. Visit her website at


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. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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.

"This is powerful nonfiction for classroom and personal reading and for discussion." School Library Journal, Starred "As fascinating as the original and a worthy sequel." Kirkus Reviews

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