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We Rode the Orphan Trains Hardcover – October 29, 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Warren (Orphan Train Rider) here interviews eight orphan train riders concerning their childhood experiences during "the largest children's migration in history" between 1854 and 1929 as part of a "placing out" program run by the Children's Aid Society of New York City. The stories reflect the diversity of the train itself, from Nettie, who discusses how she and her identical twin, Nellie, escaped their first sadistic adoptive mother to find a loving home with an older couple, to Art Smith, whose daydreams of an actress mother were shattered when he discovered he was a baby "left in a basket in Gimbel's Department Store." Many of the profiles include well-chosen details that will tug at readers' heartstrings, such as Sister Justina, who celebrated the wrong birth date for 57 years, or little Ruth, who initially refused to take her arms off the dinner table after years of protecting her food from grabby, hungry orphans. Black-and-white photographs effectively highlight the stories. Though some of the accounts focus too much on adult discoveries, ultimately the anecdotes about these brave and lonely children will keep readers traveling on this train. Ages 9-12.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-8-Warren's story of nine-year-old Lee Nailling in Orphan Train Rider (Houghton, 1996) opened a window onto a disturbing period of American history in which children were both victims and heroes. In this follow-up volume, she relates the personal histories of eight men and women-now senior citizens-who were orphaned or abandoned as children and later traveled across the country in trains to meet strangers who would become their new family members. An introductory chapter describes the appalling numbers of homeless children in 19th-century America's large eastern cities and explains how poverty and disease as well as high rates of alcohol and drug addiction contributed to a problem that continued into the 20th century. The personal histories, based on interviews that Warren conducted with her subjects, are rich and compelling and so full of dramatic twists and turns that they could have been conceived by Charles Dickens. Hunger, fear, and isolation are the most common recollections of the men and women who speak from these pages. Fortunately these stories all have happy endings, testimony to the resilience of children and the kindness of strangers. The author also includes information about early social activists such as Charles Loring Brace, who established New York City's Children's Aid Society in 1853. These remarkable stories have enormous human-interest appeal and will provoke serious discussion about just how much life has really changed for children from the last century until today.

William McLoughlin, Brookside School, Worthington, OH

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 940L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1St Edition edition (October 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618117121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618117123
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Imagine you're on a train to a place you don't know, with hundreds of other children riding with you. At the next stop you get off and you're on display for people to see. Complete strangers come over to examine you and scrutinize over whether to adopt you, one of the orphan train riders, into their homes. We Rode the Orphan Trains by Andrea Warren narrates the accounts of seven riders who experienced what is was like to ride the orphan trains. First the author gives a short review of what the orphan trains are all about and the life of one agent who rode with the children to their new homes. Any child who was orphaned or abandoned could be put on the orphan train. These trains then went from town to town where the children, some infants, others in their teens, were put on display and the townspeople wanting to adopt would come over. After that any child wanted by a family would go and live with them. In the case of Arthur Field this worked out well and he grew up living a happy life. Nettie and Nellie Enns suffered under a cruel mother and were promptly taken to a new home where they found happiness. We Rode the Orphan Trains is quite engaging and leads you into the minds of those people who rode the Orphan Trains.

The book is packed with useful information and invaluable to anyone learning about the orphan trains. Two introductory chapters help you understand what the orphan trains is all about. The next seven chapters deal with the lives of seven riders and include excerpts and background on each rider. The last chapter discusses briefly the future of the orphan trains. You don't have to wade through a huge, heavy book on the history of orphans to learn about the orphan trains.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book but I had not known it was so short. There are less than 125 pages. It is typed double-spaced and there are many pictures, some of them taking up a full page. I greatly enjoyed the pictures but I just hadn't expected a book I could go through so quickly.

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I had never heard of the Orphan Trains until I visited The Little White House in Warm Springs, GA and noticed some books on the subject. Since that time, I have researched and purchased quite a bit of written material regarding the Orphan Trains since that time. This book was extremely well researched and documented. The first-hand stories were incredible. It is a shame that the families were unable to keep their children in the desperate economic times.
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Format: Paperback
Interesting, informative read...A good way to learn about the Orphan Trains...History with a human touch...

Rather than curse the darkness, the Children's Aid Society of New York, tried to light that one small candle.

As imperfect as that candle may have been, the CAS tried to do something, something that, in the end, led to better lives for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children orphaned and alone in New York.

There were, of course--there had to be--stories that did not have happy endings, but this book offers positive stories of the Orphan Trains as told by the children, now aged adults, who lived through the experience and, for the most part, thrived and lived happy, fulfilling lives. There is some mention of children--brothers and sisters usually--who did not fare well after being separated from their siblings, but for the most part this is a story of Orphan Train successes. Yet, as positive and uplifting as this book is--and it is positive and uplifting--there is a lingering feeling that this is a sanitized version of the Orphan Train story.

A haunting image comes to mind again and again when thinking about the Orphan Trains. What must it have been like, what must it have felt like, to have been the only child not chosen, to have been the last child on the train when it reached the end of the line and you still haven't been chosen. One can't imagine the feelings of unworthiness and loneliness that child must have felt.

This book doesn't eliminate that thought, that concern, but it does celebrate success stories, and while that may not be the whole story of the Orphan Trains, it is a worthwhile thing to do. Better to light that one candle...
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They were throwaway kids, not always orphans, from the streets and orphanages of the city who rode the orphan trains to the rural areas of the Midwest and given away at stops along the way. Some found happy homes, some landed in brutal homes, many went to homes of people looking for cheap labor. Charles Loving Brace, a young minister in New York City, started the Orphan Train movement through his Children's Aid Society. The trains ran from 1854 to 1929 and an estimated 200,000 children made the journey. In this book, Andrea Warren reports on true cases. among them, Lorraine Williams who found loving parents; Blanche Thomas who lived in several homes and orphanages before she found a home to call her own; And her sister Ruth who found a good home, but far from her sister. These are a few of the children's stories in We Rode the Orphan Trains.
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