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The Midnight Train Home

by Erika Tamar

School Library Journal : Gr 5-7-Deirdre O'Rourke, 11, doesn't understand what's happening when she and her brothers, Sean and Jimmy, are bundled off on an orphan train in 1927 to find new families west of New York City. They're not orphans, but their mum says she can no longer support them. Reality sinks in when little Jimmy is chosen by a strange couple, and a furious Deirdre can't do anything to stop them. Then she ends up with Reverend Gansworthy and his stern, unaffectionate wife, who take her in only as an act of charity, and she is determined to find her brothers. Once she learns that Sean is in Texas, she runs away and joins a traveling vaudeville troupe in order to reach him. She discovers that singing is her main love in life, and that a troupe of actors can become as important a family as her brothers. Tamar does a wonderful job of incorporating the historical attitudes and realities of life for the poor during the late `20s. It's interesting to read about the ongoing tradition of orphan trains, so often connected only to the 1880s. The characters of the vaudeville troupe are convincing as a surrogate family for Deirdre, and the descriptions of her performance anxieties are real enough to appeal to any would-be performer. In spite of some inconsistencies in the protagonist's character, this book is a useful addition to the canon of orphan-train fiction.-Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA

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