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Orphan Stories

Author Linda Lamme
Air Date 12/7/1999

Orphan Stories Transcript

Here’s Linda Lamme with a review of two recent children’s books that might end up on your gift list this year.

Holiday times, when we traditionally come together with our families, offer us an occasion to think about those without families. Harry Potter is not the only abused orphan in town. Two recently published children’s books carry on the tradition of storytelling that features the heroic adventures of orphaned children who refuse to bow to their circumstances and, instead, seek a better life.

Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine, set in New York City during the 1920s, is the story of what happens to a boy named Dave when his father dies and his aunts place him in a home for boys. Conditions there are brutal, and one night Dave decides that he has had enough and escapes by scaling the wall surrounding the orphanage. Wandering the streets of Harlem, through some unusual circumstances, Dave is introduced to the wonders of the Harlem Renaissance and this gives a new direction to this life. But Dave’s transformation isn’t easy–before he can go forward, he needs to return to the orphanage, out of loyalty to the boys who remain there and to retrieve Dave’s most prized possession–a carving his father left him of their family.

Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud, Not Buddy features a ten-year-old boy who runs away from an abusive foster home in search of a band player whom he believes to be his father. The only clue Bud has is an old playbill with a picture of the man that Bud found in his mother’s belongings after she died. The story, which takes place during the Depression, is about Bud’s quest–a particularly dangerous one because Bud is black and travelling alone in 1930s America. Bud, not Buddy is an inspiring page-turner that honors the courageous acts of those who fought the injustices of prejudice. Christopher Paul Curtis has said that he carefully researched the information in his book and laments the fact that he did not listen more carefully to his family when they told stories of the Depression. He writes, “Be smarter than I was: Go talk to Grandma and Grandpa…By keeping their stories alive you make them, and yourself, immortal.”

What good advice! Buy these books as holiday presents for a senior citizen as well as for the children in your family. Read them together. Then ask those older family members about their lives, and listen while their experiences weave the fascinating fabric of their own stories.

Posted in Literature