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ORPHAN ELEVEN by Gennifer Choldenko


by Gennifer Choldenko

Pub Date: May 26th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-385-74255-9
Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Fleeing an orphanage, 11-year-old Lucy finds a home with a traveling circus while searching for her older sister.

For the past five years, Lucy has lived at the Home for Friendless Children, where she stood out as an A student with a beautiful voice until chosen for special lessons with a “university lady.” Subjected to constant criticism and humiliation during these lessons, Lucy begins stuttering and eventually stops speaking. One day, when left unattended outside the orphanage fence, Lucy and three other orphans bolt, hitch a ride to Chicago, and connect with a sympathetic dwarf named Jabo, who works for Saachi’s Circus Spectacular. Under Jabo’s guidance, the three other children find apprenticeships with the circus, but no one will take Lucy on unless she speaks. Unaware the orphanage is desperately hunting for her and actively thwarting her sister’s efforts to find her, plucky Lucy must overcome her fear of speaking, earn a place with the circus, and connect with her sister while uncovering the sinister cause of her selective mutism. Set in 1939, Lucy’s dramatic story plays out against the disparate, but carefully researched and authentically rendered, environments of a bleak orphanage eager to exploit its wards and the colorful, dynamic, diverse circus world eager to welcome four homeless orphans (all evidently white). The author’s note reveals the horrifying reality that inspired Lucy’s story.

A fast-paced, intriguing, and surprising orphan story.

(glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)