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City of Orphans

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,507 ratings  ·  289 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 g...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (first published February 29th 2000)
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Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWonderstruck by Brian SelznickDivergent by Veronica RothInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Newbery 2012
89th out of 167 books — 675 voters
Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtWords in the Dust by Trent ReedyA Monster Calls by Patrick NessInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha LaiBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Mock Newbery 2011/2012
28th out of 39 books — 51 voters

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Community Reviews

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Richie Partington
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...more
Oh my gosh! I finally found it!

You see, I read this book a year ago and absolutely loved it, but it was a library check-out, and I stupidly forgot the title. Ever since then I've been kicking myself for not writing it down. Just as a last resort, a few minutes ago I Google searched "tween books about newsboys and poor girls" and I FOUND A PICTURE OF THIS COVER WITH THE TITLE! OMG I was elated! I almost screamed, but that would have been irrational.

I absolutely loved loved loved loved loved this...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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
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
Joanna Marple
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
Ardea Smith
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...more
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...more
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!
Anais P
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...more
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...more
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
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.
Excellent historical fiction/mystery set in New York. Good Nutmeg choice
Rating: 7.2
Summary: Maks Geless lives in late 19th century New York, and things aren't always easy for a poor newsie. Maks sells papers, but he's always watching for the Plug Uglies, who steal the papers and money for a Mr. Brunswick. That's how Maks meets his friend, Willa. Together, Maks and Willa have to also try to prove that Emma Geless didn't steal anything from the Waldorf. A tightly woven story where everything ties together.
The Outsiders - gangs
The Sea of Monsters - Ne...more
IndyPL Kids Book Blog
Maks sells newspapers every day on a street corner so his family can keep the shabby apartment they live in and so they can eat. Just eat. Nothing else. He gets 8 pennies a day.

He also gets threatened by bullies who want to steal the little bit of money he has. When the Plug Uglies gang finally corners him in an alley Maks is pretty sure he’s done for until an unlikely person steps in and saves his face from a certain pounding.

That person? A homeless kid. A girl. With a club. Willa is not a girl...more
I'm always excited to begin reading a new historical fiction novel from the prolific pen of the inimitable Avi. Few authors among his contemporaries are able to capture a particular time in history so well, complete with authentic characterizations that ring true down to the smallest detail and accurately nuanced language that fits in perfectly with the time period being represented. City of Orphans, as with most of the author's other historical stories, effectively evokes a time and place now...more
I read this book as part of a Mock Newberry book club I am participating in with a group of colleagues. While the premise of the story did not immediately grab my attention, I gave it a try and it pulled me in fairly quickly. I was impressed with the plot setting, character development, the drawing together of the various storylines, and the satisfying, feel-good, yet still realistic conclusion. It's an action-packed quick read that I think would appeal to both boys and girls.

My one complaint wa...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
While I agree with other reviewers that the narration is rather obnoxious as it speaks to the reader in period language, apparently from the perspective of one of Mak's compatriots. The identity of this person is never revealed and seemed to fade away over the course of the novel, although I could have gotten better at ignoring it. However, it does situate the novel firmly in time, location, and economic class in a way that might be appealing to children who may not feel that it was as affected...more
Imagine you live in New York City. Not the city of our time, though, the city as it was at the turn of the 20th century.

You’re thirteen years old. You've quit school because the crowded classroom with 100 kids was too much to bear. You also quit because you need to work to help your family survive. Eight cents a day. That is what you bring in by selling newspapers on the street as a “newsie”. At least, that’s what you make on a good day when you can actually sell them all. What will you do when...more
Ms. Yingling
In 1893 New York, Maks works as a newsboy. When the Plug Ugly gang threatens him, he is saved by the plucky but homeless Willa, whom he takes back to meet his hard working Danish immigrant family. Unfortunately, this is the night that they find his sister Emma has been arrested for stealing a watch from a guest at the Waldorf Hotel, where she works as a maid. Maks sister Agnes is studying but ill with tuberculosis and Agnes and the father are going to lose their jobs when the shoe factory closes...more
Maks es uno de los muchos repartidores de periódicos de la ciudad de Nueva York. Trabaja para ayudar a su familia en el día a día, una familia de origen danés, con ocho miembros y de clase obrera, que vive como puede en un pequeñísimo piso de los suburbios.

Maks tiene dos preocupaciones, vender todos los periódicos, y que Bruno y su panda de rufianes no le ataquen y le roben el dinero. Sin embargo esto ultimo es mas difícil y una tarde acorralan a Maks en un callejón, por suerte en el callejón ha...more
City of Orphans’ story starts off well; building up the story setting and getting you quickly wrapped up in the main character’s life. You learn the ins and outs of the world for Maks, a young newsie making only eight cents a day selling papers on the streets of New York. The story had a few plot twists and some action to keep the reader entertained. The overall pace of the story felt slow at times, but I was curious enough in regards to the plot to hang on during the slow parts; which was rewar...more
Jan 28, 2012 Beverly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 10-13 year olds
Recommended to Beverly by:
City of Orpans, by the great YA author Avi, is mostly an insightful historical fiction, with just enough mystery added to keep reluctant readers engaged. Maks is a newsie in gritty, polluted and dangerous lower east side New York City during the mass immigration period of the late 1800's. Avi powerfully tells the story of the disease filled tenements, home to immigrants who work twelve hours a day in factories and don't earn enough money to feed their families. As a newsie, Maks is on the city s...more
The year is 1893 and New York City may be a melting pot of immigrants, but it is also a "City of Orphans," a city where the children must take care of parents who don't speak English or understand how to navigate their new country. Thirteen-year-old Maks is a newsie and depends on his eight cents a day to keep his family in their tenement home and food in their bellies. His older sister Emma has a sweet job at the new Waldorf Hotel and his other siblings do their best to contribute as well. Momm...more
Arlene Szalay
This book can be used as a resource for the common core. Life was hard in New York City in 1893; few jobs, little pay, dirty streets, and disease running rampant. Maks and his family have immigrated from Denmark. Everyone in the family works and Max is a newsie. He has to deal with gangs who threaten him. His sister is accused of stealing a watch in the hotel where she works and the family has no money to help get her released. This job falls to Maks. Maks also befriends a homeless girl who hel...more
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Did you like this? 3 8 Jan 09, 2014 11:57AM  
Oprah's Book Club...: City of Orphans 2 68 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 very much desired by readers young and old.
More about Avi...
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle Crispin: The Cross of Lead (Crispin #1) Nothing But the Truth Poppy (Tales of Dimwood Forest, #1) The Seer of Shadows

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