Education Resource Center

Book Review

Orphan Train Girl




by Christina Baker Kline
228 p.





In this adaptation of Orphan Train for young readers, Molly Ayer is a troubled preteen girl in foster care. After stealing a book from the library, Molly must perform 20 hours of community service helping an elderly woman clean her attic. Molly expects to meet another adult who considers her just another inconvenience.  However, Vivian Daly is interested in Molly, and they find they have many things in common.

Their stories are told in alternating chapters.  Molly’s story is present day and delves into her struggles as a half-Penobscot Native American trying to find her way in life.  Vivian’s story is one of a poor Irish immigrant in New York City in the early part of the 20th century.  After she was orphaned, Vivian was put on a train with hundreds of other orphaned children to be fostered by families in the Midwest. Together, they not only clear boxes of past mementos from Vivian’s attic, but forge a path of friendship, forgiveness, and new beginnings for their future.

This book includes an author’s note and archival photos from the orphan train era. It highlights a little-known but historically significant moment in our country’s past.  Between 1854 and 1929, the ‘Orphan Trains’ transported more than 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children from the east coast cities to the Midwest.  Other Non-fiction books about Orphan Trains are:  We Rode the Orphan Trains by Andrea Warren; The Orphan Trains by Alice Flanagan; Orphan Trains: Taking the Rails to a New Life by Rebecca Langston-George.

Grades 3-6.