Inspired by a little-known chapter of American history, this characteristically incisive collaboration from Bunting and Himler (Someday a Tree, see p. 90; Fly Away Home) imagines a journey on one of the many ""Orphan Trains"" that, between the mid-1850s and the late 1920s, brought children from New York City orphanages to adoptive families in the West. The narrator of this finely crafted, heart-wrenching story is Marianne, a plain girl secretly dreaming of being reunited with her own mother, who promised to return for Marianne after making a new life for them in the West. Bunting ably weaves the girl's hopes and anxieties into her perceptive account of how each of Marianne's 13 companions is chosen for adoption at the various train stations while she futilely searches the crowd for her mother. Finally only Marianne remains. In the tale's optimistic ending, Marianne finds a new family in Somewhere, Iowa, the train's last stop. Here an elderly couple, who clearly had planned on adopting a boy, take Marianne in, with ultimately comforting, resonant words: ""Sometimes what you get turns out to be better than what you wanted in the first place."" Himler's watercolor and gouache paintings offer polished portraits of the period as they convey the plot's considerable emotion. Like Bunting's text, his art is at once sobering and uplifting-and assuredly memorable. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/29/1996 Release date: 02/01/1996 Genre: Children's
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