ORPHAN ELEVEN, by Gennifer Choldenko, Wendy Lamb Books, May 26, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
An orphan finds her dream home in an unexpected place in Gennifer Choldenko’s Orphan Eleven.
Four orphans have escaped from the Home for Friendless Children. One is Lucy, who used to talk and sing. No one knows why she doesn’t speak anymore; silence is her protection.
The orphans find work and new friends at a traveling circus. Lucy loves caring for the elephants, but she must be able to speak to them, and to warn others of danger. If Lucy doesn’t find her voice, she’ll be left behind when the circus goes on the rails. Meanwhile, people are searching for Lucy, and her puzzling past is about to catch up with her. —Synopsis provided by Wendy Lamb Books
This is the first novel I’ve read by Gennifer Choldenko, who is well known for her Tales from Alcatraz series. Based on Orphan Eleven, it’s not hard to see why she’s a Newberry Honor author. She’s excellent at setting both scene and pacing.
There’s a charm to Orphan Eleven that you wouldn’t immediately consider based on the above synopsis. But it’s there nonetheless. Lucy’s dogged determinedness and inner strength are the trunk from which her story branches out. Experiencing the circus through her eyes is magical. Even the mundane gets a flair of life.
Orphan Eleven is an engaging read that grabs you from the first page, and makes you want to know more about Lucy and her friends long after you’ve finished.
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