City of Orphans

City of Orphans

Grade Level: Third

“And that’s when the body on the ground jumps up.” That body belongs to Willa, resident of an alley off Chrystie street and wielder of a great stick. This moment begins a grand adventure for Willa and Maks.

Set in the 1890s New York, City of Orphans is a story about a newsie and a rag collector learning to be detectives. Maks stumbles upon Willa when running from a gang of boys bent on discouraging him from selling his papers. Owing Willa his life, Maks invites her home. His family immediately adopts her. There is more trouble though, Emma, Maks’ sister has been accused of stealing. She is put in jail and her family only has a week before her trial. Maks will elicit the help of Willa and a sickly detective to find the evidence to free Emma.

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This book is amazing! I read most of it in one sitting. There are a few things to be cautious of: the conflicts from the gang, the murder at the end, and the bouts of tuberculosis.

There are a few fights between the newsies and Bruno, the leader of the Plug Uglies. Bruno brags about beating up the boys. He even breaks someone’s arm. He threatens to soak the street in newsboy blood. There is a large fight between the Newsies and the Plug Uglies which results in a house burning down. The violence is minimal and not very descriptive.

The book ends with Bruno in a crazy fit of rage. He steals a man’s gun and proceeds to kill that man in the lobby of the Waldorf Hotel. Bruno is immediately killed by the hotel’s detective. The author makes note of the blood pooling on the ground but nothing more.

This is New York City in the 1890s. Disease ran rampant at this time. Maks’ sister is struggling with tuberculosis as is the detective who helps the kids. The Avi describes the blood spittle on handkerchiefs and the constant coughing. Willa also confesses that her mother died from the disease.

There is at least one time when the father uses the Lord’s name in vain. On page 43 papa cries, “Great God!”.

I cannot sing the praises of this book enough. I really enjoyed it and I believe that boys and girls will find it enjoyable!

 

Lesson Plans:

*Research NYC in the 1890s

-Types of people who lived there

-Buildings

-Kinds of jobs people had

-Lifestyles

-Different types of clothing

-Diseases (page 155)

* Research some of the important people mentioned: Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Alan Pinkerton

*Research Ellis Island

*Child Labor/Labor Movement (TEKS 8.24B)

-Interesting to address the concept that factory owners and newspapers felt that all employees were replaceable.

* Write a journal entry as a parent answering: How do you decide which child to save?

* Keep a diary as Maks while you read the novel

*Discuss the growth in crime and the need for good detectives and police forces. (Could tie in with Alan Pinkerton)

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