cover image Oddfellow’s Orphanage

Oddfellow’s Orphanage

Emily Winfield Martin. Random, $14.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-375-86995-2

Martin’s poignant and gently humorous debut novel is set in an unusual orphanage. The story grew out of portraits of the characters Martin drew, which appear throughout, accompanied by pithy explanations of how each resident came to live at the orphanage. The headmaster is Oddfellow Bluebeard (“a distant relation of the more famous Bluebeard”), who is “as gentle and kind as the other Bluebeard was cruel.” The story centers on newcomer Delia, a silent albino girl whose fellow orphans include a kind girl with pet finches; a spunky tattooed girl; a ravenous hedgehog; and Ollie, an upbeat boy with an onion for a head. Their adventures (pictured in the book’s abundant spot art) balance fantasy and reality: they discover a lake monster, enjoy a sumptuous picnic, view a mermaid fossil, watch the orphanage’s resident bear family perform at a circus, and enjoy a traditional Christmas. The novel’s cheerful tenor is occasionally tempered by the orphans’ memories of their former families, yet the new, loving bonds they’ve formed shine through. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 7–10. Agent: Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Jan.)