The Orphan Band of Springdale

 
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The Orphan Band of Springdale
Author(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
April 10, 2018
ISBN
978-0763688042
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It’s 1941, and tensions are rising in the United States as the Second World War rages in Europe. Eleven-year-old Gusta’s life, like the world around her, is about to change. Her father, a foreign-born labor organizer, has had to flee the country, and Gusta has been sent to live in an orphanage run by her grandmother. Nearsighted, snaggletoothed Gusta arrives in Springdale, Maine, lugging her one precious possession: a beloved old French horn, her sole memento of her father. But in a family that’s long on troubles and short on money, how can a girl hang on to something so valuable and yet so useless when Gusta’s mill-worker uncle needs surgery to fix his mangled hand, with no union to help him pay? Inspired by her mother’s fanciful stories, Gusta secretly hopes to find the coin-like “Wish” that her sea-captain grandfather supposedly left hidden somewhere. Meanwhile, even as Gusta gets to know the rambunctious orphans at the home, she feels like an outsider at her new school — and finds herself facing patriotism turned to prejudice, alien registration drives, and a family secret likely to turn the small town upside down.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

1941 in Small-town America
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
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.
Good Points
Wonderful main character
A look at a time in history that doesn't often get portrayed
Great writing
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Music in World War II
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Gusta Neubronner is on a bus from New York City to a small town in Maine in 1941 when her father disappears. He is a union organizer, and has told Gusta a little bit about what to do if men come for him, but she just didn't expect it. At least she is on her way to her grandmother's house, and manages to arrive without other incidents. Her grandmother runs an odd sort of orphanage, so there is plenty of room for Gusta. She settles in to school, gets to know her cousin, and finally gets a much needed pair of eyeglasses. In order to pay for the glasses, she helps a German optometrist who keeps pigeons. As WWII heats up, everyone comes under suspicion, especially the optometrist and Gusta, who is unable to furnish a birth certificate to the school. Gusta plays the French Horn, and is glad to be approached by the high school band, but when her uncle needs an operation to repair damage done by the looms at his work, she sells the instrument to help pay for it. She also writes to a labor organizer in New York who worked with her father, hoping to get some representation for the uncle's case. Long held family secrets emerge, and eventually Gusta is able to make sense of her world.
Good Points
Our 8th graders do a unit on the Holocaust, so I have a wide range of books about different facets of World War II that they read as background preparation. Being of German heritage myself, I am constantly fascinated by books involving Germans in the US during WWII, but aside from A Tiny Piece of Sky and Bunting's Spying on Miss Muller (1995), there aren't that many. The suspicion with which German immigrants, many of whom had been in the country for a very long time, were held has eerie echos in today's treatment of ethnic subgroups, and can teach some important lessons.

This Nesbet's own mother's story, and the love that goes into the details is very evident. I would have adored this one as a child because of all of the details of life in the home front, and of Gusta's adjustment to being with a new family and in a new community. This had a classic feel to it, reminiscent of Sorenson's Miracles on Maple Hill or Gates' Blue Willow.
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