Ms. Yingling's Reviews > City of Orphans

City of Orphans by Avi
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Feb 15, 12

Read in October, 2011

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 down, so Maks and Willa try to find a detective to help them prove Emma's innocence. They find Donck, a former Pinkerton detective also dying of "consumption" who helps Maks get a job at the Waldorf so he can find the watch and the real thief. Willa helps the family out by taking over Maks news job, but the gang continues to threaten the two. Some odd coincidences help the two figure out the real culprit, and the family's fortunes improve.
Strengths: A fast-paced writing style and compelling mystery, combined with a few fun illustrations, make this one historical novel that students won't mind picking up.
Weaknesses: The persistence of teachers to overuse this author's older titles make him a hard sell. This is too bad, since some of his books are really great.

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