In a young readers’ version of Kline’s Orphan Train (2013), sixth-grader Molly, a foster child on the coast of Maine, helps an elderly woman, Vivian, sort through boxes of keepsakes in her attic.
Molly, quietly introspective, is performing community service, assigned (surprisingly) for trying to steal a battered paperback from the public library. In Vivian, she discovers a kindred spirit. The elderly white woman is an orphan too and traveled west in 1929 on an orphan train. In the attic, Molly unwraps objects from Vivian’s childhood, each providing the vehicle for a transition to Vivian’s arduous experiences, first in New York, then on the orphan train, and finally in Minnesota, where she’s shunted from one desperate foster home to another. By comparison, Molly’s experiences under the care of her emotionally abusive foster mother, Dina, seem almost mild. The tale is painted with a broad brush, lacking the gentle nuance of the adult version. Molly, half Penobscot Indian and half white, prefers goth dress and is a vegetarian, but it’s never quite clear why angry, white, unnuanced Dina so dislikes her. Vivian’s more richly evoked story of immigration, poverty, and occasional kindness is more compelling but also simplistic, partly because her character is only about 10 or 11, even at the end of her story.
Although interesting, this effort may leave readers wishing to explore unplumbed depths. (Fiction. 10-12)