Ten-year-old Leona Chapter doesn't understand why her papa left his six children at the Brooklyn Home for Homeless Children after their mother's death in 1921. Each day she prays he'll return and take his children home. God, however, isn't listening. Her brothers and sisters are either adopted or run away, leaving only Leona and Baby Mildred in the orphanage. Leona promises she and Mildred will be together for always. A promise she cannot keep, for Leona, along with her friend Noah, who she defends from the bullies Hiram and Jehu, and several other orphans, are soon on a train headed to Texas, while her sister stays at the orphanage. Leona vows she'll go back to Brooklyn, the first chance she gets. An Orphan Tran tale of the early 1900s
I’d heard of Orphan Train novels, but I’d never read one until A Family for Leona. Though it’s hard for me to imagine the depth of desperation it would take to leave your children at an orphanage, I guess it is perhaps better than starvation and homelessness. Poor Leona and her siblings deal with the shock of being left in their own ways. Leona holds onto hope for a desperately long time that her father will come back to claim them. One by one, the children go in different directions until it’s Leona’s turn and she is sent across the country with a handful of orphans, none of which are her siblings. She’s homesick, confused and still holding onto hope that her father will claim her again, so it takes her a while to settle into her new home, a farm owned by a lovely older couple whose children are grown.
Leona is a spitfire of a girl. She steps in when she witnesses bullying, even when her assistance isn’t really wanted. Her spunk serves her well though as she works her way through the unexpected turns her life takes. And I admit, I got a little weepy at the end. Mrs. McClure offers us a very touching resolution.
This is an important part of our country’s history and I recommend this book for any middle grade reader who likes historical fiction, and for the libraries that serve those readers. Another wonderfully written story from Beverly Stowe McClure.
A Family for Leona is available from
4RV Publishing: http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/
About the author, Beverly Stowe McClure:
Most days, you'll find Beverly at her computer writing stories young voices whisper in her ear. When she's not writing, she plays the piano. Her cats don't appreciate good music and run and hide when she tickles the ivories. She's sometimes called the "bug lady." She's not telling why.
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