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City of Orphans Hardcover – September 6, 2011
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Written by Avi and Illustrated by Greg Ruth
(Atheneum; ISBN: 9781416971023; September 2011; Fall Catalog page 51)
“An immigrant family tries to survive crime, poverty and corruption in 1893 New York City. Earning enough money to cover the rent and basic needs in this year of economic panic is an endless struggle for every member of the family. Every penny counts, even the eight cents daily profit 13-year-old Maks earns by selling newspapers. Maks also must cope with violent attacks by a street gang and its vicious leader, who in turn is being manipulated by someone even more powerful. Now Maks’ sister has been wrongly arrested for stealing a watch at her job in the glamorous Waldorf Hotel and is in the notorious Tombs prison awaiting trial. How will they prove her innocence? Maks finds help and friendship from Willa, a homeless street urchin, and Bartleby Donck, an eccentric lawyer. Avi’s vivid recreation of the sights and sounds of that time and place is spot on, masterfully weaving accurate historical details with Maks’ experiences as he encounters the city of sunshine and shadow. An omniscient narrator speaks directly to readers, establishing an immediacy that allows them to feel the characters’ fears and worries and hopes. Heroic deeds, narrow escapes, dastardly villains, amazing coincidences and a family rich in love and hope are all part of an intricate and endlessly entertaining adventure. Terrific!”
-- Kirkus July 15, 2011 *STAR
City of Orphans.
Avi (Author) , Ruth, Greg (Illustrator)
Sep 2011. 368 p. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, hardcover, $16.99. (9781416971023).
Dickensian street action comes to New York’s Lower East Side in this gripping story, set in 1893, of
newsboy Maks, 13, who feels “hungry twenty-five hours a day.” After rescuing a filthy, homeless girl,
Willa, Maks takes her to the crowded tenement he shares with his struggling Danish immigrant family.
Pursued by Bruno, the leader of the Plug Ugly street gang, Maks is desperate to save his sister, Emma,
who was imprisoned after being falsely accused of stealing a watch from the Waldorf Hotel, where she
worked as a cleaner. Just as compelling as the fast-moving plot’s twists and turns is the story’s social
realism, brought home by the contrasts between the overcrowded, unsanitary slums (“No water, gas,
electricity”) and the luxurious Waldorf. Then there are the unspeakable conditions in prison, where, even
as a prisoner, Emma must pay for food. Avi writes in an immediate, third-person, present-tense voice,
mostly from Maks’ colloquial viewpoint (“He’s full of heartache, but no one is seeing it”), with occasional
switches to Willa and to the desperate young gangster leader. Threading together the drama are tense
mysteries: Is Willa really an orphan? Who stole the watch? Pair this riveting historical novel with Linda
Granfield’s 97 Orchard Street, New York: Stories of Immigrant Life (2001), a nonfiction account of Lower
East Side tenements.
--Booklist, August 1, 2011, *STAR
City of Orphans
Avi, illus. by Greg Ruth. S&S/Atheneum/Jackson, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4169-7102-3
Thirteen-year-old Maks Geless, the oldest son of Danish immigrants, makes eight cents a day hawking The World on Manhattan street corners in 1893. Newbery Medalist Avi tells his story in a vibrant, unsophisticated, present-tense voice (a typical chapter begins, “Okay, now it’s the next day—Tuesday”), and it’s a hard life. Maks’s sister Agnes has TB, the shoe factory where Agnes and Mr. Geless work is suspending operations, and the grocer and landlord want their accounts paid. Then Maks’s oldest sister, Emma, is accused of stealing from a guest at the Waldorf Hotel, where she is a maid. Amid this strife, the good-hearted Gelesses take in Willa, a homeless girl who saved Maks from a street gang. Maks and Willa must prove Emma’s innocence, with the help of an odd, possibly dying detective (he’s coughing up blood, too). The contrasts among Maks’s family’s squalid tenement existence; Emma’s incarceration in the Tombs, the city’s infamous prison; and the splendor of the Waldorf bring a stark portrait of 19th-century society to a terrifically exciting read, with Ruth’s fine pencil portraits adding to the overall appeal. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)
--Publishers Weekly, August 22, 2011, *STAR
"Narrating in the present tense, Avi attempts a colloquial, first-person “Lemme tell you how it was” style not normally found in books for middle graders. The opening, which describes Maks so vividly you feel that he’s standing right in front of you, strikes the kind of friendly note bound to draw in the average reader. 'Now, this Maks, he’s regular height for a 13-year-old, ruddy-faced, shaggy brown hair, always wearing a cloth cap, canvas jacket and trousers, plus decent boots.' In short, he’s a 'newsie'…honest-to-goodness historical mysteries are hard to find, and Avi doles out his clues carefully, allowing children the chance to feel smart if they put two and two together."
-- The New York Times Book Review
"Like the intricate inner workings of a fine gold watch from a bygone era, Avi crafts a not-to-be-missed mystery/thriller yarn featuring a colorful cast of mugs and swells and set amidst the opulence and the poverty of nineteenth century Manhattan."
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
About the Author
Greg Ruth has published work for The New York Times, DC Comics, Paradox Press, Fantagraphics Books, and more. His books for children include Our Enduring Spirit by President Barack Obama and A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Preller. Greg lives and works in Western Massachusetts.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series, and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. Pre-order the official script book today. Kindle | Hardcover
More About the Author
Avi is part of a family of writers extending back into the 19th century. Born in 1937 and raised in New York City, Avi was educated in local schools, before going to the Midwest and then back to NYC to complete his education. Starting out as a playwright--while working for many years as a librarian--he began writing books for young people when the first of his kids came along.
His first book was Things That Sometimes Happen, published in 1970, and recently reissued. Since then he has published seventy books. Winner of many awards, including the 2003 Newbery award for Crispin: the Cross of Lead (Hyperion), two Newbery Honors, two Horn Book awards, and an O'Dell award, as well as many children's choice awards, he frequently travels to schools around the country to talk to his readers.
Among his most popular books are Crispin: The Cross of Lead, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing but the Truth, the Poppy books, Midnight Magic, and The Fighting Ground.
In 2008 he published The Seer of Shadows (HarperCollins), A Beginning a Muddle and an End (Harcourt), Hard Gold (Hyperion) and Not Seeing is Believing, a one-act play in the collection, Acting Out (Simon and Schuster). Crispin: the End of Time, the third in the Newbery Award-winning series, was published in 2010. City of Orphans was released in 2011, receiving a number of starred reviews. Learn more at Avi-writer.com. Follow Avi on Facebook, facebook.com/avi.writer, where he shares an inside look at his writing process.
Avi lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and family.
Top Customer Reviews
I wondered for quite a while where exactly this story was going. The author had created such a vibrant setting and such warm, engaging characters that I wasn't too concerned about it though, as I was just enjoying the scenery. The characters and setting are that strong.
This was a time when the police weren't always the good guys, and people were often guilty until proven innocent or until they could bribe the right person. When Maks sister is arrested for theft and taken to the Tombs, the story shifts from a period piece focusing on character, to a mystery. Maks sets out to become a boy detective and with Willa's help, they seek to discover the real perpetrator of the theft and free Maks sister from prison.
The language is colorful, the dialogue authentic, and the atmosphere simply captivating. The mystery is intriguing and will keep readers glued to the very end when they will experience an ending that is surprisingly violent.Read more ›
This is one of those books that is frustrating for me. From my own point of view, the book rates an easy 5 stars. Unfortunately, it has a flaw for average MS readers.
First, Avi proves his worth again at building believable, knowable, and complete characters. Even the minor characters are given pizzaz. As for setting, as a period novel, I have to use the word incredible. You get the feel for late nineteenth century NYC so completely that visualization is automatic. (The scene where Maks encounters an elevator for the first time would by itself almost make the book worth reading!) I also always appreciate a book that has strong male and female main characters. Trust me, you will fall for Maks and Willa; you will feel their pain (and joy) and be moved by Willa's transition from orphan to sister/daughter. ("But then Willa says to him, 'Where am I supposed to go now?' That time Maks can speak. 'Home,' he says. And Willa gives Maks the most grateful look that ever was grateful.") Maks is twelve and Willa just a bit younger.
Avi uses at least two narrators, both third person. When you are with Maks or Willa, you usually get the narrator thats "talks" with slang and vernacular. When with adults, the narrator becomes more standard issue. Avi is always great with voice.
The flaw in the book is the plot's pace. I love it when my students read books I've liked and we can share thoughts. With this book, it's hard for me to get kids to the part where the mystery begins and the plot quickens. It does become a page turner then, I assure you. But if I can't get them to stick with it, well, it's frustrating.
If you read and like this book, I strongly recommend Matthew Kirby's The Clockwork Three as a follow-up. It is set a bit earlier in the same century.
I rate this book as 5 stars out of 5 stars, because it is full of suspense and drama. I think the book is written very well and it was easy for me to read and understand. I liked reading about a family that had to work together to survive the hard times of the 1800′s.
In my life I don't have older siblings, so reading about a family that helps each other to get through each day was really nice. I have a younger brother and I try to protect him everyday from bad things or bad people. I am the first to warn him if someone one isn't treating him right and I am always trying to keep him out of trouble. Maks was the character I really found I understood, because it seemed like he was always in charge of everybody. I am somebody who likes to be in charge and to make sure things are done correct and right. I would read this book again, because I liked it so much.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lower Eastside living in NYC at the beginning of the 20th century was turbulent, violent, poor, and miserable...for kids and grown-ups. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Peggy
Great book. Having lived in this neighborhood, I knew the setting cold. Avi does a great job bringing us back to the Lower East Side of 100 plus years ago. And the characters! Read morePublished 8 months ago by B. Bevins
The book is awesome and it came in great condition as said.. Thank you so much....Published 11 months ago by Parilee Danneels
This book is honestly one of the best I've read recently. City of Orphans is a mystery set in 1890's New York, where the streets were dark and the inhabitants darker. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Amy Grimm
Excellent book for a wide range of audiences. It would appeal to both children and adults who find historical fiction interesting. Read morePublished 13 months ago by ROB CVET