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Rodzina. (Hardcover Fiction).

CUSHMAN, Karen. Rodzina. Houghton Mifflin, Clarion. 215p. c2003. 0-618-13351-8. $16.00. J

The orphan trains that were a well-meaning effort to get urban orphans transported from the cities of the east to the farm communities of the west have been the subject of many children's books-it is an endlessly fascinating story after all. Cushman turns her considerable talent as a writer of historical fiction to this era in Rodzina. The cover art (by Trina Schart Hyman) probably limits the readership to the youngest of YAs. Rodzina herself is 12 years old, big for her age, capable and strong. She is an orphan from Chicago. more fortunate than other orphans because she had been part of a loving Polish family before their untimely deaths left her alone. She is admired and respected by the younger. weaker children on the orphan train, and she speaks up when she sees injustices. A woman doctor is one of the adult chaperones for the group, and she becomes a central figure in the story, a character in her own right-first as Rodzina's adversary and later as her protector.

As the train stops at various towns across the country, people interested in taking the orphans come to look them over. Rodzina of course resents this inspection and fears people are just looking for slaves to do their heavy work. When she is selected by a man with many children and taken to a sod home on the prairie where the ill wife lies in bed, she learns that the man expects the wife to die soon and thereafter he plans to marry Rodzina. Rodzina escapes that horror.

Readers ages 10-13 will enjoy this well-written novel about a strong heroine in terrible circumstances, who finds a way to not just survive but to create a life with real possibilities for herself. Cushman has won the Newbery Medal for The Midwife's Apprentice, and is also the author of Catherine. Called Birdy, a Newbery Honor Book.
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Author:Rosser, Claire
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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