Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 89

Picture Book: Orphan Train

Author: Verla Kay

Illustrator: Ken Stark

Summary: In rhymed verse, this author tells the story of 3 fictional children who are place on an orphan train. Because of a large numbers of orphans in northeastern American cities in the early 1900s, these trains full of children headed west to provide adopted children to farm families. This book begins with Lucy, Harold, and David experiencing the death of their parents to typhoid fever. Then they must fend for themselves on the streets. An orphanage takes them in and gives them clothes, meals, and beds.  Later they are placed on an orphan train. In Midwestern towns, they are paraded in front of farm families with no regard to their staying together. David is taken first. Later Lucy and Harold are taken in the same town so they are able to see each other. The book ends with Lucy and Harold hoping to find David someday.

Hanna’s Comments: This book explores an important historical time in American history when children’s rights were not valued. Even though many orphans on these trains were little more than slave labor to their adoptive families, the orphanage employees and adoptive families are not presented as good or bad characters, revealing the emotional complications of the time period. An author’s note at the beginning gives some historical context. Do not confuse this book with other books with the same title for older readers.

Publisher & Date of Publication: Putnam, 2003

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up

# of Pages: 32

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: There are videos on Youtube about the history of the orphan trains.

PBT Category: NF, Post 2K

PBT Topics this Book Connects with: adaptation/assimilation, adoption, America, anxiety/worry, babies/children, belonging, change, chosen, death/loss/grief, emotions/feeling, exile/separation, family, home, homelessness, journeys/pilgrimages/migration/quests, judgment/judges/judging, labor/work, orphans, parents/parental love, poverty, siblings/sibling rivalry, survival, tragedy, victims

Scripture Connections:: You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child (Exodus 22:22-24); children separated from parents during the Babylonian exile in the Old Testament

Idea(s) for Application: as part of a homeschool/religious school lesson on the history of the orphan trains and how your faith informs issues of adoption and parenting

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