Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline


I received this book from She Reads in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline was a book that took me by surprise.

Did you know that between 1854 and 1929 there was an actual orphan train?  The train transported orphans to towns in the US, stopping to try to adopt out the kids.  Adopting out became, in many cases, indentured servitude.

Orphan Train tells two intermingled stories.  One story is of Molly, who is struggling in foster care, rebelling, and not able to fit in.  When Molly gets in trouble for stealing Jane Eyre from the local library, she has to complete community service hours.  Molly’s hours can be completed by helping Vivian, an older woman who needs to clean out her attic.

As Molly helps Vivian clean out the attic, Vivian’s story comes into light.  Vivian was an orphan on an orphan train and bounced around from “home” (if you can call indentured servitude “home”) to home, experiencing some troubling situations.

Orphan Train was a captivating book and made me immediately want to research the real orphan trains.  Thankfully, Christina Baker Kline included some information and pictures in the back of the book, so I had a little bit of a head start on my research.

I greatly enjoyed Orphan Train and love that it made me aware of a time in history that I had no idea existed.  I would definitely pick up another book by Christina Baker Kline.

Have you ever heard of the real orphan train???




36 thoughts on “Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

  1. All the reviews of this book are so fantastic! I definitely want to read it now. I’d never heard of the orphan trains before, but they seem like such a sad and interesting part of history. I love the idea of these two women bonding over their similar experiences – orphan train and foster care!


  2. Hi. There is a kids book called “Orphan Train” as well. It is about the same period in history and the train of course. I think it is by Eve Bunting. It is a very thought provoking book for children. My son loves it. This version of “Orphan Train” looks awesome. I would love to read it and hope to soon 🙂
    What remarkable history.


  3. I totally agree with you about this book making me even more fascinated by its history. I immediately started doing more research on orphan trains too!


  4. Hey Rebecca:

    Great review! I love your idea about researching the real orphan trains and I’m going to steal your idea and do the same thing. Thank you.

    I felt soooo bad for Vivian and some of the situations she found herself in, especially in that Grote home.



  5. I can’t believe there was an orphan train! Poor children!
    The book looks interesting, so it’s on my list! I’m sure I will also enjoy it!


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  7. Hi Rebecca! I loved this book too- was surprised by how much I liked it. I didn’t know anyting about the orphan trains either.
    I thought it would be a heavy, slow story, but it was not at all. I flew though it.
    side question- how do you become a part of the She Reads network? I love their site and online book club.



    • Kerri, I actually was contacted after being part of Bloggiesta (I think) and because I am in contact with another book blogger who is a big part of SheReads, Traveling with T. My suggestion? Contact Tamara @ Traveling with T. If you can’t find her email, then shoot me an email @ rebecca@loveatfirstbook.com, and we can talk about it more there!


  8. I just finished reading Orphan Train and really loved it. The characters were real and interesting. The fact that it dealt with something in our history that we don’t often hear about made it a more compelling read. I really appreciated the additional information at the end of the book.


  9. This sounds like an excellent book club type book. I had no idea there were real orphan trains. But I guess that’s great that there was a way to send orphans to others locations to increase their chances of getting adopted.


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  11. I first heard of the orphan trains by watching the Orphan Train movie (Turner Classic Movies
    -TCM Orphan Train 1979). Good movie which revealed a heartbreaking situation for thousands of children. A real eye opener and nightmare that most of us were not aware existed.


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