cover image RODZINA


Karen Cushman, , read by Becky Ann Baker. . Listening Library, $25 (, unabridged, three cassettes, 5 hrs., $25 ISBN p) ISBN 978-0-8072-1576-0

Reading her introduction, Cushman (Catherine, Called Birdy) connects her latest historical novel to her own family history, piquing the interest of listeners who are then rewarded with Baker's steady performance and a consistently solid production. With an approach that skillfully balances vulnerability and toughness, Baker gives emotional heft to the heroine, a 12-year-old Polish immigrant orphan who has seen far too much tragedy in her young life. Rodzina is among a group of children being sent west (ideally to new families) on one of the orphan trains common in mid-19th-century America. Along the way, she suppresses memories of her home and feelings of grief, self-doubt and loneliness under a mostly unfriendly demeanor. But Rodzina's innate tenderness occasionally shows through as she tends to the younger orphans and helps warm the heart of one of their frosty, seemingly aloof chaperones. Cushman's variegated blend of characters and settings paints a crisp portrait of the era; Baker's accomplished delivery makes it seem all the more real. Simultaneous release with the Clarion hardcover. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)