The Orphan Band of Springdale

Written by Anne Nesbet
Review by Kristen Hannum

Gusta Neubronner, eleven and raised in New York City, is packed off to her grandmother, whom she’s never met, in Springdale, a small town in Maine. World War II is looming, Gusta’s German name makes her seem suspicious to the townsfolk, and times are so tough that she knows her mother back in New York City thinks her precious French horn might have to be sold to pay her way at her grandmother’s. Worst of all, her father, a German-born labor organizer, is on the run, and if the authorities catch up with him they’re certain to deport him to Germany and certain death. Gusta quickly learns how much more important family is even than her music, and also how right her father had been: that only by standing together and supporting one another can people get a fair shake — and that goes for kids as well as adults.

This is a great book for the age group it’s marketed for, 10- to 14-year-olds, but it’s also enjoyable in its own right for anyone, making it perfect for reading together with kids, with many moments to pause over and challenges to discuss. I’ve got a soft spot for books that I know I would have loved as a kid, and this one hit that spot exactly. It has girls discovering cousins they didn’t know they had, secrets revealed, colorful family history coming alive, and good behavior winning out over bad. Beyond that, Gusta’s world and our own are bursting with parallels that reach out and practically shake a reader by the collar. Recommended.