Title: Whistle-Stop West
Author: Arleta Richardson
Series: Beyond the Orphan Train, book 2
Major Themes: Midwest, Orphan Trains, Travel, Family Read-alouds, Christian Fiction, US History 1900-1950
Synopsis: The four Cooper children, with 21 other orphans, travel west on the train to find new families and new lives.
I discovered the Beyond the Orphan Train series (also known as the Orphan’s Journey series) by Arleta Richardson as they were being written in the 1990s. They caught my eye because my sisters and I had been enjoying her Grandma’s Attic series for several years already. As each new book was published, I snatched it up. Each one was at least as good as the one before! Whistle-Stop West tells the story of how the four Cooper children traveled west on the orphan train to find a new home with a family who had asked for them.
Twelve children left Briarlane Christian Children’s Home in Pennsylvania on the orphan train, and 13 more joined them in Chicago. As the children and their caregivers, Matron Daly from the children’s home and Charles Glover from Hull House in Chicago, traveled west, they met many adventures. Simon Cooper kept seeing strange things—but his big brother Ethan and Ethan’s best friend Bert wouldn’t believe him. Then, Simon disappeared! What had happened to him?
As the train continued going west, children were chosen, a few at a time, by adoptive families who came to see them at various stops along the way. Each time, there was tension—who would come to look over the children? Who would be chosen? Would the ones chosen be happy with their new families? And all the way, Ethan and his siblings knew their new family was waiting for them at the end of the trip—would the new family love them?
This is a wonderful story of the love of a family, and a delightful glimpse into the Orphan Trains that took so many children to new homes in the Midwest. There is a gentle mystery woven through a lot of the story, and it is a beautiful picture of friendship, between Ethan and his friend Bert. As they travel, the children also learn more about God’s plan for them and how to live for Him. I highly recommend this whole series for all children.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12