Christina Baker Kline’s adapts her bestselling Orphan Train for young readers with Orphan Train Girl. The main difference between the two versions, other than length, is the protagonist’s age: In the adult version, she’s an older teenager; in the new version, she’s in middle school.
Molly Ayers is a preteen struggling to fit into her latest foster home, and after stealing a book from the library, she must do 20 hours of community service. Molly’s assignment is to help Vivian Daly, who is nearing 100 years old, clean out her attic. Molly is sure that this old lady will not approve of her, but Vivian turns out to have more in common with Molly than she thought.
Kline reveals their often-parallel stories in alternating chapters. Molly’s are set in the current day and reveals her life as a half-Penobscot Native American finding her way without a tribe to guide her. Vivian’s story flashes back to her arrival in New York with her Irish family and follows her on her journey after she is orphaned by a fire. As Molly learns about Vivian’s story, she begins to find peace in her own situation.
Kline’s prose is fluid and draws readers into the characters, and each chapter’s cliffhanger ending keeps the pages turning. Part coming-of-age novel, part historical fiction, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through eighth-level Catholic school.