Everything starts with a French horn and a wish for 11-year-old Augusta “Gusta” Neubronner once she moves to Gramma Hoopes’s Orphanage in 1941.
Her papa abruptly vanished during their bus trip from New York City to see her grandmother at her orphanage, leaving her to fend for herself until Gramma Hoope takes her in. Gusta can’t help but apply what she’s learned from her activist father and his connections with immigrant workers and union organizers when she learns of an uncle who’s out of work and can’t pay for a factory-related surgery. Her good intentions—including plans to sell her beloved French horn for cash as a last resort—are met with opposition, and soon Gusta has even more to contemplate when she learns of buried secrets that could threaten her grandmother’s orphanage.
Inspired by Nesbet’s mother’s childhood, The Orphan Band of Springdale is a story filled with thought-provoking metaphors and a host of colorful characters. Nesbet’s narrative has a lilting quality that makes her storytelling both unique and attractive, and young readers will appreciate her well-rounded characters as well as a small but highly engaging group of antagonists. Nesbet also incorporates factual information of the era to highlight relevant themes of injustice, immigration and the labor movement. The Orphan Band of Springdale is a heartwarming and educational read.