City of Orphans

(2011)
City of Orphans

Newbery award winner Avi (2003 for Crispin: The Cross of Lead) creates a captivating adventure set in his hometown of New York City in 1893. Life is a hardscrabble existence for Maks and his immigrant family: poverty, illness, threats of gangs, shortage of food, filthy living conditions, and dependence on an unfamiliar society. Thirteen-year-old Maks sells newspapers to earn a few pennies a day which sets him up as a target of the Plug Ugly Gang. He meets homeless Willa who saves him from an attack with a big stick she carries. Together they attempt to clear Maks’ sister, Emma, who is in jail in “The Tombs,” accused of stealing in the new luxury Waldorf Hotel. Terminally ill Lawyer Donck reluctantly agrees to help them. This fast-paced, thrilling detective story that peaks in a shoot-out in the Waldorf, is told in simple “tough guy” language. Readers will empathize with Maks and Willa and admire their strong-willed, resourceful spirits.

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