This first in the Hidden Histories series of middle-grade novels highlights an episode in which New York City’s Foundling Hospital sent white youth to unfamiliar Arizona Territory to be adopted by Mexican Catholics, raising the ire of Protestant Anglos and revealing the depths of their prejudice.
Ever since Rory Fitzpatrick and her baby sister, Violet, arrived at the Foundling after their parents died, Rory has worked to remain with Vi. It seems for naught when Sister Anna decides to send Vi west to be placed. Rather than lose her last family member, Rory stows away on the train, appearing only when she cannot be sent back. It’s a good thing, too, as the nuns cannot care for the tots without Rory’s help. And when they arrive in Clifton to a riot caused by desperate, angry white women, only Rory fully understands the threat. Although Rory’s heroism is improbable, youngsters will find it heartening. Rory escapes when kidnapped, then negotiates a deal to secure safe passage for the majority of orphans and nuns—all before the happy ending. The injustice, drama and action will have readers riveted. A historical note sheds some light on the complicated issues. However, why so many women gave up their babies will warrant discussion, given Rory’s conflicted view of the matter (she makes a somewhat disturbing distinction between being an orphan and a foundling).
Despite this point, children will find this an exciting, eye-opening read. (Historical fiction. 9-11)