City of Orphans
Title: City of Orphans
Illustrator: Greg Ruth
Genre: Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 350
Pub. Date: 2011
Summary: The streets of 1893 New York are crowded, filthy, dangerous. Maks Geless, is a 13 year old boy who has had to grow up fast in order to take care of his family. He not only has to work and sell papers, he has to watch out for Bruno, leader of the Plug Ugly Gang. While being chased by Bruno and his gang, Maks discovers Willa, a young girl who lives alone in an alley and she ends up saving him by using her stick. Maks must also find a way to free his sister Emma from The Tombs, the city jail where she has been imprisoned for stealing a watch at the Waldorf Hotel. Maks, believing her innocent, has to find a way to prove it. He finds Bartleby Donck, who trains Maks and Willa to be detectives and eventually helps not only solve the theft case, but also helps Willa find her long lost father, who ends up being the man who framed her and dies right in front of her. Although she has lost all of her family, Willa is welcomed into Maks’ family and made to feel right at home.
Critique: This piece would be considered a historical fiction book in the category of historically researched with imaginary characters. Willa and Maks and his family aren’t real people, but they are very believeable along with the setting that surrounds them and the situations they have to go through. The poverty that their family goes through is a characteristic of the times and the New York at the time was a dirty and dangerous place. In evaluating the quality of this piece of historical fiction, the story definitely re-creates the times through setting and daily life. It also reveals history through a character of a similar age to the reader with Maks and Willa being young teens.
Response: The problem in the story is very intricately woven throughout the story. Not only must Maks avoid the Pug Uglies, he must also watch out for Willa, find a way to prove his sister’s innocence, he must also be conscious of his family’s money troubles and bring home at least a day’s earning so he can buy more papers. Another problem in the story involves Maks’ younger sister who is growing sicker by the day. He is faced with all of these problems, which makes for a gripping and suspenseful plot.
City of Orphans Video Contest
"Create a video inspired by Avi's City of Orphans, and you could win an in-person visit from Avi to your classroom or library!
It's that time of year ... plan for a Common Core, technology-involved, learning experience in your classroom, library, or book club. We've chosen City of Orphans because it has possibilities for many children to be involved in the filming. Thinks newsies and rival gang, Maks' family ... there are numerous possibilities."