Book Review: Rodzina

This week and next week will be featuring books by Karen Cushman as we lead up to an author interview and book review of her latest novel Alchemy and Meggy Swann.  I’ll start the week of with a review of one of my favorite books of Karen Cushman’s.

Karen Cushman
Grades 5-8
224 pages

In the words of Rodzina herself:

“That’s pronounced Rodzina,” I interrupted, making that sound between a D and a G and a Z that it seemed only Polish mouths could make, sort of like the G-sound in bridge or cage or huge, but not quite.  The lady doctor sounded like a bumblebee with her Rod-zzzzzz-ina.

About a girl and her journey on an Orphan Train.

After losing her father to an accident, her mother to ‘the fever’ and her brothers to a fire, twelve year old Rodzina is left all alone to fend for herself on the streets of Chicago.  Rodzina is brought to an orphanage where they have no room for her and force her to board an Orphan train , in hopes that she’ll find a family to take her in.  Set in 1881, the story follows her journey west with a slew of lovable characters from rambunctious Joe and Sammy, to timid Gertie, and lovable but gullible Lacey.

Despite her tough exterior, Rodzina is a vulnerable girl, scared and alone, and not as grown up as she pretends to be.  She dreams and hopes to be placed in a loving home, but fears she will become nothing more than a slave to some family who doesn’t want a daughter but an indentured servant.  She uses her wit and stubbornness to get herself out of a couple difficult situations while still holding on to the hope that she’ll find a loving family.

When I started writing the second novel in my Abigail Wenworth Series, it led me to research the orphan trains (even though I didn’t end up going in that direction).  So I already knew a good deal about the orphan trains when I started reading, and I have to say the historical details and accuracy in this novel are wonderful.  It’s incorporated into the story seamlessly, giving the reader a history lesson without them ever realizing it.  It is definitely a historical book worth the read.  You won’t be disappointed.

Alternate Cover

There were two covers for this book.  I’ve used the one of Rodzina on the train, but the book I read had a cover of Rodzina looking like a thug with Lacey cowering behind her.  It’s slightly misleading.  It gave me the impression that Rodzina would be a “bully” when nothing could be further from the truth.  If you’re like me and will sometimes pass a book over just because of its cover, don’t skip this book!  You’ll miss out on a wonderful story!


4 Responses to Book Review: Rodzina

  1. Audry says:

    I read a series set around the orphan trains when I was in about 4th grade. I don’t really remember much about the stories at all, but I remember I loved the books. Every time I hear anything about orphan trains it makes me think of them. I’ll have to add this one to my list too 😀

  2. Tricia says:

    I definitely prefer the cover with Rodzina looking out the window of the train!

  3. Jennifer says:

    Yeah the train cover is also more accurate in giving an idea of what the story is about.

    Audry: Go find out the name of the series 😀 I want to read it. hehe

  4. Audry says:

    The Orphan Train Quartet, by Joan Lowery Nixon

    Book 1: A Family Apart
    Book 2: Caught in the Act
    Book 3: In the Face of Danger
    Book 4: A Place to Belong

    The story descriptions only sound vaguely familiar, but the publishing date is right.

    Apparently there are 3 more books now, and they’re sold as the Orphan Train Adventures series.

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