Orphan Train Girl

Written by Christina Baker Kline
Review by Nicole Evelina

This is a shortened, YA/middle-grade version of Orphan Train, the popular adult novel that traces the stories of two orphaned girls, Vivian in the early part of the last century and Molly in present times. It braids the tales together until they merge, to show that a young modern girl actually has more in common with the 91-year-old survivor of the orphan trains than either could ever imagine. A special appendix at the end of the novel addresses the real history of the period, including a brief historical note and photos.

This version is understandably toned down from the original story, containing none of the tales of abuse and harsher details of the adult novel. The main character, Molly, is aged down from 17 to a sixth-grader, and the negative aspects of the story are removed, resulting in a much more pleasant, albeit perhaps less impactful, tale. If you’ve read the adult version, this one may seem overly sanitized and saccharine, but it is right for the age group.

I’m not really sure why a YA/middle grade version was deemed necessary, but young readers will likely be fascinated with the details of the little-known orphan train kids’ lives. Parents and children will find much to like in this story of bonding and respect between two seemingly disparate generations, a lesson much needed in today’s society.