1941 in Small-town America
The year is 1941, and Gusta and her father board a bus to make their way to Springdale, Maine so that Gusta can spend time with her grandmother--and then Gusta's father, August Neubronner, disappears just as men search the bus looking for a fugitive. That fugitive is Gusta's Papa.
Gusta manages the bus trip on her own, and upon being deposited in Springdale she finds her grandmother's home where Gusta is the latest of the foster children to be welcomed by Mrs. Hoopes and her daughter Marion.
THE ORPHAN BAND OF SPRINGDALE by Anne Nesbet follows this sweet, strong girl through her fifth-grade school year in a new town. Fortunately, Gusta is accustomed to new schools; her parents have kept her moving as they left homes due to lack of funds or traveled to new places as August Neubronner fought to organize workers for the union. Gusta has picked up her father's strong sense of right and wrong, and she draws on her memories of him as she navigates all the trials that come with being a new kid, being someone with an "un-American" name, and finding that she has family members who she wants to help.
Through false accusations, pre-World War II prejudices, and life's smaller hurts, Gusta finds the value in family, friendships, and wishes. Anne Nesbet manages to tie a lot into this lovely book, and the narrative keeps moving at a good pace. Along with the fantastic main character, Gusta, I especially enjoyed the writing in this book. Nesbet drops little bits of wisdom and beauty throughout THE ORPHAN BAND OF SPRINGDALE, and she does so with elegant language that doesn't get in the way of the pacing. Looking at a time in history that doesn't always show up in children's literature is another plus... in fact, there are so many plusses to this book, their hard to fit into one small review!
I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
A look at a time in history that doesn't often get portrayed