Title: Beyond the Orphan Train series (also known as the Orphans’ Journey series)
Author: Arleta Richardson
Major Themes: South Dakota, Mexico, Pioneers, Family Read-alouds, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, US History 1900-1950, Central America, Books for Boys
Synopsis: This series of four books tells the wonderful, true story of a boy who rode the orphan trains with his siblings in the early 1900s.
The Beyond the Orphan Train series (also known as the Orphans’ Journey series) is a wonderful set of stories! I remember coming across the first book, back around 1990 when it was first published, and being excited to have more stories by the woman who wrote the Grandma’s Attic series. My sisters and I had enjoyed all of those books, and I knew we would enjoy these as well. I was not disappointed! I read that first book to my brothers, and at least the first three to the class I taught at school a few years later; I bought each book as soon as it was published. Now, I’ve read the entire series to my children twice. The first time I read them, I recorded the books onto casette tapes, and the older children listened to them over and over! When I reread the series this year, so the younger ones could enjoy them, the older ones would repeatedly exclaim, “This is my favorite chapter/scene in this book!” That makes it especially fun to read books again.
The series starts with Looking for Home, in which Ethan and his brothers and sisters are orphaned. Because their older brothers and sister can’t care for the younger children, Ethan, Alice, Simon and Will are sent to the county Children’s Home, where they are cared for and learn about God. After a year or so in the Home, they are sent west on an Orphan Train. All four are to be kept together, so a family is found to take them in. They experience many interesting events as they travel, as related in Whistle-Stop West.
The children settle in to life with the Chad Rush family in Nebraska, but within a year they are on the move again, as Chad has bought land in North Dakota and moves his family, including the orphan children, there in Prairie Homestead. Ethan learns to work hard and to handle emergencies. A few years later, as recorded in Across the Border, Chad moves his family again—this time to Mexico, where the children experience a different culture and Ethan learns more life lessons.
These stories are based on the life of a real person, which, to me, makes them even more interesting than they would be if they were simply fiction. We all greatly enjoyed this entire series; it is very well-written. There are adventures, and just plain living, with life lessons naturally woven in.
For more about each title, see the individual reviews.
WARNING: See individual reviews.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12