Childrens Books


ORPHAN TRAINS Taking the Rails to a New Life

Rebecca Langston-George
(Chapter book/ 9 – 14 years)

This story, written by an elementary school teacher, tells about seven orphans who were placed throughout the Midwest by the Children’s Aid Society.





Hazelle Boxberg

BRAVE KIDS True Stories from America’s Past

Hazelle Boxberg
by Susan E. Goodman
Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

(ages 6 – 9)

Texas bound, Hazelle has been living in the Grace Home, an orphanage in New York City, for almost a year. Now she and several other children have been put on a train headed for Texas, where they will be placed with families that want children. But Hazelle isn’t an orphan, and her new home isn’t what she expected.

This Ready-For-Chapters is based on the true story of Hazelle Boxberg, an 11-year-old girl who traveled to Texas on an orphan train in 1918. Her story is as exciting as any novel.

Train to Somewhere
Eve BuntingTrain_to_Somewhere-155x131
Illustrated by Ronald Himler
(6 – 12 years)

“This characteristically incisive collaboration from Bunting and Himler imagines a journey on one of the many ‘Orphan Trains’ that, between the mid-1850s and the late 1920s, brought children from New York City orphanages to adoptive families in the West.  The narrator of this finely crafted, heart-wrenching story in Marianne, a plain girl secretly dreaming of being reunited with her own mother . . . Himler’s watercolor and gouache paintings offer polished portraits of the period as they convey the plot’s considerable emotion.  Like Bunting’s text, his art is at once sobering and uplifting – and assuredly memorable.” Publishers Weekly

“By making this slice of American history into an appealing tale, Bunting offers an opportunity to compare present-day social policies with those of times past.  The book is timely yet universal in showing the desire of every child for a loving family.” School Library Journal

“The words and pictures are understated; readers will fill in the spaces for themselves . . . Even older students will find the history compelling and will want to find out more about what happened to those lonely children.” ALA Booklist


The Orphan Train Adventure Series:Family_Apart
A Family Apart
Caught in the Act
In the Face of Danger
A Place to Belong

Joan Lowery Nixon
(ages 10 – 13)

The Orphan Train saga follows the story of the six Kelly children, whose widowed mother has sent them west from New York City in 1856 because she realizes she cannot give them the life they deserve.  The children, especially thirteen-year-old Frances Mary, feel an overwhelming sense of betrayal and abandonment.  They cannot understand that Mrs. Kelly has made the ultimate sacrifice for them.

Their arrival in St. Joseph, Missouri, separates the children not only from their mother, but from each other as well.  Frances has promised Ma that she will look after her youngest brother, and to do so she must masquerade as a boy.  “Frankie’s” adventures eventually involve her in the activities of the Underground Railroad.  Was splitting up the family really her mother’s greatest act of love?

orphan trains cover

Orphan Trains: An Interactive History Adventure

Elizabeth Raum
(ages 8+)

In the early 1900s, adults hoped to find parents for homeless city children by sending them west on trains.  Most of the children had no idea whether they would find kind adoptive families or be forced to work like slaves.  Will you:

  • Head west after living on the streets of New York City?
  • Search for a home for you and your three younger siblings?
  • Try to care for yourself and your baby sister on your own?

Everything in this book happened to real people.  And YOU CHOOSE what you do next.  The choices you make could lead you to survival or to death.

Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True StoryOne_Boys_True_Story
Andrea Warren

“A fascinating book about a social movement that predated foster homes, adoption agencies, and homeless shelters. . . A wealth of information . . . rich in human interest.” School Library Journal