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A Family Apart (Orphan Train Adventures, #1)
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A Family Apart (Orphan Train Adventures #1)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,461 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews

Imagine being taken from your home. Imagine your mother is the one who lets it happen.

This is the fate that befalls the Kelly children. It’s 1856, and their widowed mother has sent them west from New York City because she’s convinc
Paperback, 162 pages
Published December 18th 1995 by Laurel Leaf (first published 1987)
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AnneCatherine Because she wants to help with the larger chores, but knows that if Jake finds out she's a girl he won't let her.

Community Reviews

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Mary Beth
Mar 10, 2009 Mary Beth rated it it was amazing
I think I read A Family Apart in third grade. I just remember that it made a big impression on me, enough so that I related the whole plot, details and all, to my grandmother in one sitting.
I remember reading these as a child and I absolutely loved them. I figure if the memory of a book has been able to stick with me for over twenty years it deserves four stars. I also remember that these were the first characters I cried for in a book, the first time I was moved to an outburst of emotion by written word. Those are the types of things that stick with a bibliophile.

Read in fifth grade.
Mar 22, 2010 Tracy rated it liked it
I think I read this book for the first time in 6th grade. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic lately so I've been rereading books from my childhood. I remembered that while I liked the Orphan Train series, It always bugged me that at some point (I don't remember which book) the children were allowed to go back and live with their mother and most of the 6 children declined. Having reread it, it still bugs, but I can see why the children chose to live apart through the characterization of Frances Mary in ...more
Jul 09, 2009 Candace rated it really liked it
A Family Apart is the first book in the Orphan Train Adventures series. The books follow the paths of the six Kelly children who are sent by their mother out to St Joseph, Missouri where they can hopefully find better lives than she can provide from them back in New York City.

The first book in the series, not only tells the story of the children being sent West, but focuses on Frances Mary, the eldest of the six Kellys. In her story, Frances pretends to be a boy to be able to stay with her young
Feb 28, 2015 Carrie rated it really liked it
I read this book on an airplane when I was like 8; my mom looked over and I was BAWLING with tears streaming down my face. At first she thought I somehow hurt myself but nope, just sobbing about a sad book. #sensitivechildproblems
Kate Matson
Amazing! Such a fascinating story!
Dec 28, 2016 Dellaknowsdobby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this series in 5-6ish grade and absolutely loved it! I recently re-read the series because I was craving a good historical fiction read. It's definitely a good "middle grade" historical fiction series; it's a believable and moving series about a family that is separated in a time of hardship. It's definitely one of the better historical fiction series for "middle grade" readers out there.
Aug 12, 2015 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Don’t dawdle here with your betters where you don't belong.”—page 11

How could I resist this pitch in’s synopsis:


I simply couldn’t. I loved Christina Baker Kline’s novel, Orphan Train (almost as much as I enjoy typing her musical name), and the temptation of a whole series of Orphan Train Adv
Apr 29, 2012 Tish rated it liked it
I think I would have liked this more if I were 10 years old. It seemed more like an attempt to describe what life was like back then, hitting on various aspects briefly and shallowly (poor Irish family in New York City, Orphan Train, outlaws, bounty hunters chasing escaped slaves) than a real story about real-seeming people. A lot of issues and situations were brought up that would probably provide good discussion topics, but I never really felt like the author brought them to life. I would rath ...more
Jun 18, 2016 BookBloggerInBloom rated it it was amazing
I read this book with the intention of using it in my 7th grade language arts classroom since our second semester focus is historical fiction. After watching a documentary on the orphan trains, and doing my own research, I found that these people, abandoned and forgotten as kids, were also a forgotten piece of history. In search of a novel, I came upon A Family Apart. I wanted something that was intriguing from start to finish with a lot of imagery. This book was everything I hoped it would be a ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Andrew added it
When I checked this book out I thought it would be boring. I judged it by its cover. But then I started reading it and I sort of liked it. It starts out slow but progresses and starts to get exiting. The main character is Frances Mary, she cleans at a shop to earn money for her family. One day Frances's mother decides that she needs to send the 6 children to new families in the west to give them a better life. That's we're the journey begins…

May 16, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it
Every time Orphan Train comes up in my update feed, I'm reminded of this series that came out when I was in middle school. I loved it at the time, but haven't seen it since...
May 15, 2012 Kassandra rated it really liked it
Jun 29, 2011 Janet rated it it was amazing
I remember LOVING this book as a kid. I still love it. And the entire series.
Dec 01, 2016 Anne rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
3,5 stars
Jan 08, 2017 Crazy_smiler rated it liked it
Read this in grade 7. Reading again. Great series especially for YA readers.
Sarah Denson
A Family Apart, by Joan Lowery Nixon, captures the realistic adventures of a family being separated in the depths of American History. It shows the division among children who live on the orphan train for a majority of their childhood in the mid 1800's.

Nixon's purpose in writing this novel was clearly stated, "The Orphan Train Quartet was inspired by the true stories of these children". She continues on saying, "...the characters in the series, their adventures, and the dates of their arrival ar
Justin Brandon
Justin Brandon
Goodreads Book Review

The book I read this quarter was called “A Family Apart” by Joan Lowery Nixon. This is a nonfiction book about a family who lives on the Orphan Train for most of their childhood life in 1856.
In the book “A Family Apart” the author's purpose is to show how the lives of many children were back in the 1830’s to 1901, and to show how the orphan train worked. In the beginning of the book the children are placed on the Orphan train, and none of the childr
Justin Brandon
Justin Brandon
Goodreads Book Review

The book I read this quarter was called “A Family Apart” by Joan Lowery Nixon. This is a nonfiction book about a family who gets lives on the Orphan Train for most of their childhood life in 1856.
In the book “A Family Apart” the author's purpose is to show how the lives of many children were back in the 1830’s to 1901, and to show how the orphan train worked. In the beginning of the book the children are placed on the Orphan train, and none of the c
Jodie Toohey
Sep 05, 2014 Jodie Toohey rated it really liked it
I found this book on Amazon when I was researching for my pre-civil war era historical novel; it book provided a lot of good information about the appearance of the rural Midwest and about how people lived in their farm communities.

A Family Apart opens in modern times when the grandmother of bored visiting kids in Missouri pulls out their great-great-great grandmother's, Frances Mary Kelly's, diary. It then jumps to showing Frances Mary Kelly's difficult life in New York City helping to support
Connie Gradilla
I remember reading this book in third grade. I couldn't put it down. It made me cry, it made me laugh, but most of all it made me fall in love with books. This series made me a reader. They hold a special place in my heart. I'm in search for the whole series so I can share it with my little nine year old sister. This book in particular took me through the most emotional and most creative adventure. I highly recommend.
Frances Mary is thirteen and the oldest of the six Kelly children. She loves her Mother, but can't feeling betrayed and abandoned when her mother sends them away in hopes they have a better life.

Frances Mary realizes that she and her siblings will be separated, as it will be very unlikely for any couple to take all six children. But she made her mother a promise, a promise to stay with her youngest brother and to do this, Frances Mary must pose as a boy.

The beginning of the book was kind of slow
Nov 04, 2008 Lisa rated it liked it
Frances is growing up in NYC in 1860. After her father dies, her mother struggles to keep her family of six together and in good morals. Her brother Mike suddenly gets arrested as a pick-pocket and his doomed to prison. Frances' mother decides that she is incapable of caring for her children and so she sends them off to Missouri with a children's mission to be adopted by a western family wanting children.

In attempt to keep part of the family together, Frances decides to "change" into a boy; for
May 21, 2011 Shanti rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 26, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
3 1/2 stars really, this is very good juvenile fiction. It is a young girl and her dealing with a very challenging experience, as her mother sacrifices for her children and sends them out west where they will hopefully be better cared for than she is able. As a mom, I couldn't make that gamble, nor part with my own. But this girl deals with the hurt in her own way, while making her own sacrifices for her siblings and others. It is a beautiful story of personal development, and learning of the wi ...more
Sep 09, 2016 Summer rated it liked it
good book
Kaitlyn *I Will Never Let Go*
I can honestly say I haven't read this book in a long, long time. However, my entire fourth grade class was entirely obsessed with the series for, like, years on end. Whenever I see it now I want to cry because fourth grade was so amazing. Ah, those good old days when everything was innocent...Anyway, nostalgia aside, I would probably find some flaws in this book if I read it again. But for old time's sake, I would overlook them nonetheless. It left such a profound impression on me,I've never be ...more
Aug 02, 2010 Judith rated it really liked it
This is a young adult book.

A Family Apart will help explain about ultimate sacrifice and love. The author of this novel has a unique writing style which will make you laugh and cry. Throughout the book, six children are raised in a harsh world of poverty. They are sent West on an orphan train by their mother, who feels she can't give them the life they deserve. When the children are separated, they realize how much they meant to each other. I enjoyed this novel because the compassion the mother
Aug 06, 2012 Tarica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Greatest coming of age collection for pre-teens and teenagers hands down. All teenagers feel they have a legitament reason to complain but I think after reading this series of pain and triumph your teen will appreciate what they have (not only materialist values but family values)and feel self assured in what they can accomplish. I read the Orphan Train Quartet in middle school, high school, and again in my early 20's to keep it fresh. One of the most relevant books of my childhood. It is entert ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Melinda rated it it was amazing
I read this when i was 11-12 years old and lent it to a classmate in the 8th grade but it was never returned. Unfortunately the only thing I remembered about this book was the picture on the cover and the important lessons it taught. It was only recently when I searched the library for 'Orphan Train' that this book appeared in the results and sparked my memory. I plan to read the series again to sharpen my memory of those important life lessons and I'm sure I will love the book and series just a ...more
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A Family Apart: 1-19-17 Discussion Question #1 1 2 Jan 19, 2017 09:12AM  
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Author of more than one hundred books, Joan Lowery Nixon is the only writer to have won four Edgar Allan Poe Awards for Juvenile Mysteries (and been nominated several other times) from the Mystery Writers of America. Creating contemporary teenage characters who have both a personal problem and a mystery to solve, Nixon captured the attention of legions of teenage readers since the publication of h ...more
More about Joan Lowery Nixon...

Other Books in the Series

Orphan Train Adventures (7 books)
  • Caught in the Act (Orphan Train Adventures, #2)
  • In The Face of Danger (Orphan Train Adventures, #3)
  • A Dangerous Promise (Orphan Train Adventures, #4)
  • Keeping Secrets (Orphan Train Adventures, #5)
  • A Place to Belong (Orphan Train Adventures, #6)
  • Circle of Love (Orphan Train Adventures, #7)

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