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City of Orphans

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,137 Ratings  ·  351 Reviews
The streets of 1893 New York are full of life: crowded, filthy, dangerous. If you are a newsboy like thirteen-year- old Maks Geless, you need to watch out for Bruno, leader of the Plug Ugly Gang whose shadowy, sinister boss is plotting to take control of all the newsies on the lower East Side. With Bruno’s boys in fierce pursuit, Maks discovers Willa, a strange girl who li ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (first published February 29th 2000)
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69th out of 141 books — 715 voters
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21st out of 46 books — 26 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richie Partington
Nov 15, 2011 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
Richie's Picks: CITY OF ORPHANS by Avi, Atheneum/Richard Jackson, September 2011, 368p., ISBN: 978-1-4169-7102-3

"Twice before in American history, powerful corporate interests dominated Washington and brought America to a state of unacceptable inequity, instability and corruption. Both times a social and political movement arose to restore democracy and shared prosperity.
"The first age of inequity was the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century, an era quite like today, when both political p
Connie Mayo
In my ongoing research into this era, I picked up this YA book, but I was put off by two things:

1) The point of view in this book is completely puzzling to me. For some reason it starts with a first person narrator that basically says, "I have a story about this kid Maks". Then the entire book is the story of Maks, which is essentially in third person ("Maks did this", "Maks went there") and the narrator doesn't mention himself again until the last pages, where he say, "Yup, that's my story abo
Sarah Anne Carter
Feb 19, 2015 Sarah Anne Carter rated it really liked it
This young adult novel is set in 1893 New York City – a world with child labor, wooden buildings that burn quickly, tenement housing and immigrants trying to find their way in the New World. The story follows a 13-year-old boy, Maks, who works as a newsie to help his family pay their rent.
My daughter was reading City of Orphans for school and I was interested in reading it, too; not just because I like to read what she’s reading, but because I recently read Orphan Train, which is set around the
Jul 29, 2013 Mya rated it it was amazing
I'm not usually one to be so wholly satisfied with a book as I was with City of Orphans. I'm also usually not one to gush about my satisfaction. But I. Love. This. Book. I have not yet found another to equal it in overall satisfied-ness. The protagonist was multi-faceted and not a goody-two-shoes, the narration pleased me (especially the slangy way Avi did it), and the plot was engrossing. I have read it over a good three times and haven't found anything I was dissatisfied with.
I do so wi
Lauren Wiseman
Back in fifth grade, I had read some Avi. What Do Fish Have to Do With Anything? being my current favorite. But City of Orphans has given Fish a run for its money.
Life is hard for Maks Geless, son of Danish immigrants (he came at the age of two). Money is tight, his sister is sick, and trying to sell newspapers is double hard what with Plug Uglies roughing newsies up. Then life gets extra hard when his sister Emma is accused of stealing a watch from the fancy shmancy Waldorf hotel. She wouldn't
Margo Tanenbaum
Avi, Newbery award-winning author of more than 60 novels for children and teens, turns once again to historical fiction in his newest novel, set in 1893 New York City. His hero, thirteen-year old Maks, makes a bit of money as a newsboy to help his impoverished immigrant family on the lower East Side. When his older sister, Emma, who works as a maid at the swank Waldorf-Astoria hotel, is falsely accused of theft and imprisoned in the city prison ominously called the Tombs, Maks teams up with a ho ...more
Joanna Marple
Sep 01, 2013 Joanna Marple rated it it was amazing
The lives of the children of immigrants in New York City at the end of the 1800's were filled with dangers, poverty, sickness and suffering. And yet children's lives were also filled with adventure, love, and a sense of pride, commitment and work ethic. Avi brings these facets to life through his principal characters, Maks (a Danish immigrant) and Willa (born here of German stock). City of Orphans packs a punch - and will have young readers at the edge of their seats by its conclusion. Avi is a ...more
Oct 13, 2013 Catherine rated it it was amazing
I've only read a few books by Avi, but I've loved every one. Talk about someone who has a way with words! This author is able to paint realistic pictures of humans and their sufferings. Sad, gripping, and beautiful the story of an immigrant family in New York in the nineteenth-century will keep you reading to the very end. It's not often I stay up until 1 in the morning for anything, but it was well worth it to finish this amazing story!

Highly recommended for anyone who loves a good story!
Jan 14, 2016 Jennifer rated it it was ok
2 stars for me, 3+ for kids

I really enjoyed Avi historical fiction books as a kid. I remember buying several with my allowance money from the Scholastic book order forms.

With City of Orphans, Avi shows that he's still at it, being unbelievably dependable when it comes to writing engaging children's historical fiction. That said, this novel didn't "sparkle" in any way for me. I just found it solid. The characters were fine, and the historical information was appreciated, but this actually felt "
Jun 20, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: nutmeg-books, j-books
Excellent historical fiction/mystery set in New York. Good Nutmeg choice
Oct 01, 2012 Cameron rated it it was amazing
it was good
Apr 30, 2016 Colleen rated it liked it
I wouldn't rave about this book and I wouldn't bash this book. As my 3-star rating indicates, I feel just, well...neutral about it. The vivid detail of life in 1893 in the Lower East Side of New York City was the star of this story. Avi really captured the rough and tumble, unhealthy, dirty, and dangerous atmosphere for the primarily immigrant inhabitants of that area (visit the fantastic Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side for a visual and tactile recreation of that time). The main character ...more
Avi, and Greg Ruth. City of Orphans. New York: Atheneum for Young Readers, 2011. Print.
Summary: Maks Geless is a 12 year boy living on the lower eastside of New York City during the turn of the century (19th to 20th). His parents are immigrants from Denmark and are working hard to make a good life for their children including Agnes, Emma, Maks, Ryker, Jacob and Eric. Maks works as a newsie in order to earn money for his family. The newsies are being harassed by the Plug Uglies, a street gang. D
Veronica Underwood
May 01, 2015 Veronica Underwood rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-books
The book The City of Orphans is written by Avi and elder man who wrote this book in the genre of nonfiction and fiction. The book is an incredible book that mixes reality into a story.
The City of Orphans is not the first of its kind. There is many kinds of books that talk about the struggle of gangs and how young kids back in the day who had no other options end up having to dig themselves out of these holes that society digs for them. Making a future for themselves out of nothing and turning t
Dec 29, 2014 Mr_Rosen rated it it was amazing
Avi, author of City of Orphans, takes readers away to late 19th century New York immediately from page one. Readers will be captivated as they are thrown into the unforgiving maw of the poor and dirty streets of New York. I was able to glide through the pages, as the language was simplistic but albeit authentic and engaging. Not only does the dialogue of the main characters Maks, Willa, Bruno, and the other array of characters feel genuine, but the voice of the narrator himself (whom we are lead ...more
Khantey Lim
Feb 11, 2015 Khantey Lim rated it it was amazing
AVI’s adventurous story, “City Of Orphans” takes place in New York, 1893, which is full of life, crowded, filthy and dangerous. Maks Geles, a 13 newsboy needs to watch out for the Plug Ugly gang, or they will beat him up and take away all his money. One day, Willa has saved Maks from the gang once, and they promise each other for their own advantages, and then become best buddies. A lesson that this story wants to tell us is that even if two people are taking benefits from each other to fulfil t ...more
Monica Fastenau
Dec 05, 2014 Monica Fastenau rated it it was amazing
Taking place in turn-of-the-century New York City, the story follows Maks, the 13-year-old son of poor Danish immigrants. He and all of his older siblings hold down jobs to take care of the family. Maks is a newsie. He hawks the afternoon newspaper called The World, while his 16-year-old sister works at the brand-new, extremely expensive Waldorf. His 14-year-old sister works in the factory with his father, and their mother takes in laundry. Even his younger brother Jacob, at seven years old, hel ...more
Anais P
Oct 13, 2014 Anais P rated it it was amazing
I am in fifth grade and I am reading this book for my AR reading. My fifth grade teacher gave me a goal of 20 points. I choose this book because it looked very interesting. I read the back of the book and the genre was mystery and drama, which are my favorite types of genres. I give this book a five star rating because I liked the way it was written and the suspense the book offers. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery and excitement.

This story is about a boy named Ma
Jan 30, 2013 Christy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dangers and dilemmas lurk around every turn; great risks come with every move on the mucky and treacherous streets of New York. Maks Geless is a newsboy, wandering the streets, selling his newspapers for 2 cents each. His mere income of eight cents, along with the small amount of money made by his father and sisters is all the family can rely on. Even along with the worries of supporting his deprived family, Mak’s has something greater to worry about: Bruno and his Plug Ugly Gang.

While having t
Dec 20, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it
I often enjoy Avi's books, and this one, set in 1893 New York, has much to offer to readers. The division between classes is clearly delineated here, especially with the juxtaposition of the swanky world of the Waldorf Hotel and the tenements where Maks Geless and many other immigrants manage to eke out a living. The author makes readers feel the hunger that gnaws at the bones of those who haven't eaten for days and the illnesses that often accompany poverty and poor nutrition. Maks is a newsboy ...more
Nov 30, 2011 Jess rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen, middle-grade, 2011
I rather enjoyed this one. I love a good historical novel and this one fit the bill. Whenever I read Avi's work I try to go in with an open mind, but I have not always enjoyed his work so that is usual in the back of my head. But this was different. Taking place in New York when those in power have all the money and those who are trying to struggle through life are barely squeaking by (sounds like today). Newspapers were sold on street corners and kids had to work to help put food on the table. ...more
Ardea Smith
Nov 13, 2013 Ardea Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-log
Title / Author / Publication Date: City of Orphans/Avi/2011
Genre: Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Plot summary: In 1893 New York, thirteen-year-old Maks, a newsboy, teams up with Willa, a homeless girl, to clear his older sister, Emma, from charges that she stole from the brand new Waldorf Hotel, where she works. Includes historical notes.

Considerations or precautions for readers advisory: Bullying of the two main characters by older individuals. One of the characters abandons his daughter after her mot
Miss Amanda
gr 6-8 350pgs

1893, NYC. 13 year old Maks is in trouble. His older sister Emma has been wrongly accused of stealing a gold watch at the Waldorf Hotel and the Plug Ugly Gang is trying to stop him and the rest of the newsies for The World Paper from selling their papers. Maks knows that his poor immigrant family can't afford a lawyer, but he wonders if maybe he can solve the mystery of who stole the watch to prove his sister's innocence.

Great read! I think readers who enjoyed the movie/musical "New
Lorraine Montgomery
Nov 19, 2015 Lorraine Montgomery rated it it was amazing
Fourteen-year-old Maks makes 8¢ profit when he sells all 40 of his The World newspapers in a day, and his family needs that money as it is hard times in 1893 Lower East Side, New York City. He's one of the 100s of "newsies" selling papers around the city, but he's one of the lucky ones — his family of 8 has 3 rooms in a tenement building with no water, no electricity, and no heat. Many of the newsies sleep in one of the 5 newsboys' lodging houses, or even just outside around the back of the news ...more
Lou Gaglia
May 31, 2015 Lou Gaglia rated it it was amazing
Great book for high elementary and middle school. Great book for me too, having lived for many years on the Lower East Side. Avi did a splendid job with the 1895 setting. Marvelous detail. I knew where the characters were every moment. The El train that ran up the Bowery was there, and so was the news boys' headquarters (at what is now Confucius Plaza). And the main character, Maks, lived on a street that is now only an alley. Avi certainly did his homework on that neighborhood. But the book al ...more
Jun 02, 2014 Christina rated it really liked it
The streets in NewYork in 1893 is crowded, filthy, and dangerous. Thirteen-year-old boy Maks is a danish immigrant and sells newspaper, The World. They call the boys who sell the newspaper 'newsies'. Maks's family is very poor, and are very urgent to pay the rent of the house his family is living. Maks's Papa and Agnes, Maks's sister is working in a shoe factory and his mom is doing a laundry job.
One day, Maks is selling a newspaper, shouting the headlines. On the way home with his eight cent
Jan 25, 2014 Daniel rated it really liked it
This is a readable and well-written YA novel that uses a historical setting without turning the story into an excuse for set pieces in which the author shows off what he has learned. In fact, the setting and era are almost incidental to the narrative, which moves along at a quick pace: the whole novel spans six days and moves from beat to beat like a hardboiled detective novel. Those who know Newsies will appreciate all of the material about the kids hawking their papers; adults will be reminded ...more
Mar 02, 2015 Hannah rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was full of adventure and mystery. I really liked this book because it was packed with adventure and mystery it always kept me on the edge to see what would happen next i couldn't put it down. This Book's Strengths were the constant excitement and knowing that you are just only pages away from a new chapter. The downfalls of the book were that it got confusing sometimes but it would always clear up again so you could have a fun time with the book. I recommend this book to an ...more
Sep 25, 2012 Jack rated it liked it
I really liked this book. It started off a but slow but it then picked up. Though there was a lot going on, it is very complicated so you have to really pay attention but it is just such a good book . I would recommend it to anyone.
Ridgewood Public Library Youth Services
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Although I found the mystery that was driving the plot to be predictable, I really enjoyed this book because of the characters. There's nothing objectionable in this story for younger YA readers (although characters are on the receiving end of violence in several instances, nothing is graphically described- mostly just implied). School Library Journal recommends this for grades 6-8 and I'd have to agree that even though older YA readers should read this because it's a
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Round and flat characters 1 1 Nov 02, 2015 10:37AM  
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Oprah's Book Club...: City of Orphans 2 78 Dec 01, 2012 06:19AM  
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Avi is a pen name for Edward Irving Wortis, but he says, "The fact is, Avi is the only name I use." Born in 1937, Avi has created many fictional favorites such as The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing but the Truth, and the Crispin series. His work is popular among readers young and old.
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