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Cushman, Karen.
New York : Clarion Books, 2003.
IL 5-8, RL 5.9
ISBN 0618133518
(4 booktalks)
Booktalk #1

It's true.  They take you out west on a train and sell you as a slave.  You end up on some farm doing hard labor.  At least that's what Rodzina has been told.  She's an orphan living in Chicago.  The year is 1881 and there is little hope for Rodzina Clara Jadwiga Anastazya Brodski.  Her family emigrated from Poland when she was a toddler but they are all dead now.  She lived on the streets until the authorities picked her up and sent her to the orphanage.  They didn't want her so now she finds herself on a train heading west.  Twenty one orphans and two adults ride in the train car.  The trip is long and hard.  At the first stop, several children are taken by locals but Rodzina does all she can to keep from being selected.  She has a plan.  If she is as onery as she can be, no one will want her and she'll have to be sent back to Chicago.  Will her plan work?  Will the others find homes?

Booktalk #2

Rodzina is an orphan, living in Chicago during the late 1800's. Like many homeless children of the time, she is put on an “orphan train” and sent west to be adopted by some family along the way. She isn't interested in being adopted by some farm family and she certainly doesn't want to be a miner's wife. Rodzina is beginning to wonder if there is any future for her in California. How will this strong-willed, feisty girl ever fit in? This book’s many interesting characters will stay with you long after you finish the book.  (Jean B. Bellavance for Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards, 2004-2005)

Booktalk #3

She never wanted to be an orphan---but what kid does?If twelve-year-old Rodzina would have had any choice in the matter, she would have stayed at the Little Wanderers’ Refuge, but they don’t keep orphan children permanently, only until new homes can be found.So they sent her and twenty-one other orphans on a special train traveling west from Chicago in 1881.They were told that they were very fortunate and lucky to have the opportunity.If they did what they were told and smiled very sweetly, they should have a new home soon.

But Rodzina knew better.Who out west would want scruffy orphans from the streets of Chicago anyway?Only someone who wanted to work them to death.Besides, one of the boys on the street had told her that orphanages sell the orphans to families that want slaves.Orphans come to no good end.That’s what Rodzina had heard and she believed every word.Besides, who would want her?She was big for her age, mean, tough, and of Polish origin.And what if nobody wanted her as the train stopped at towns throughout the west?Would she have to ride back and forth on the train, east to west and west to east, like some Eternal Traveler, giving rise to the legend of Rodzina the Unwanted, and have her story told around fireplaces, kitchen stoves, and campfires to scare little children?No, Rodzina wanted nothing to do with this orphan train.She doesn’t need a new family.All she really wants is her old family back.But she knows that won’t happen so she is determined to take care of herself.

Since she is only twelve, Rodzina has little choice in the matter and finds herself on an orphan train traveling west.Because she is the oldest, she is quickly selected by their adult lady companion to be in charge of several of the children. Rodzina begrudgingly accepts the responsibility and thus begins her long, lonely journey westward.Will she find a family to love her or will she became entrapped in an unwanted life?Read the story of Rodzina by Karen Cushman.Oklahoma Sequoyah Children’s Book Award nominee, 2005-2006

Booktalk #4

As a young girl growing up in Chicago, Rodzina Brodski is happy living with her mother, father and two brothers.  When her family members tragically die, twelve-year-old Rodzina becomes an orphan.  She finds herself on an orphan train heading west where, she is sure; she will be sold for slavery.  As her journey west progresses, she attaches herself to other orphans on the train, as well as a woman doctor overseeing the orphans.  Keeping the other children happy with stories from her childhood, funny jokes, and games, Rodzina becomes a hero for some of them, including the woman doctor.  In the back of her mind, though, Rodzina wonders; will she ever get the loving family that she once had?  Set in 1881, Rodzina's humor and real-life encounters will have you stepping into the story right along side her.  (Brittany Engle,, college student)

SUBJECTS:     Polish Americans -- Fiction.
                        Orphans -- Fiction.
                        Orphan trains -- Fiction.
                        Survival -- Fiction.
                        West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century -- Fiction.
                        Historical fiction.


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