cover image Orphan Eleven

Orphan Eleven

Gennifer Choldenko. Random/Lamb, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-74255-9

Left at the Home for Friendless Children five years ago, 11-year-old Lucy Sauve, once a singer with a beautiful voice, has been relentlessly tormented by the head matron and music teacher until developing selective mutism. While working outside one spring day in 1939, Lucy escapes, hoping to make her way to Chicago and her older sister, Dilly. She’s joined by three other orphans, and the four hitchhike to that city, where they are connected with Jabo, a dwarf and the aspiring ringmaster of Sacchi’s Circus. If they secure an apprenticeship in one week without making three mistakes, they’re told, they can stay with the circus permanently. Lucy desperately wants to help care for the circus’s elephants, but it’s deemed too dangerous unless she speaks. Choldenko (the Tales from Alcatraz series) includes lively details about circus life in the 1930s as well as vividly wrought characters, such as prickly Bald Doris and kindhearted Jabo. Choldenko intersperses letters from Lucy’s sister that reveal the orphanage’s sinister attempts to keep Lucy from her family, adding a welcome layer of mystery to the story. With Lucy’s undaunted determination and boundless compassion, this uplifting tale of hope, survival, and belonging has all the ingredients to become a beloved middle grade book. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. [em](May) [/em]