The Orphan Band of Springdale: A Review

Anne Nesbet’s The Orphan Band of Springdale is a tale of family, patriotism and overcoming prejudice

This year, I’ve become more interested in children’s fiction, especially realistic fiction. The Orphan Band of Springdale, set in 1940’s America, as World War II rages in Europe is Gusta Neubronner‘s story. Left behind by her father on a bus, eleven year old Gusta moves into her grandmother’s orphanage. While there, the nearsighted, snaggletoothed girl learns about family, sacrifice and the bitter taste of prejudice. Central to Gusta’s story is the French horn that is “the bravest part of her – her sweet, large, secret, brassy voice”.

The Orphan Band Of Springdale - Afoma Umesi

“The Light of Trouble”

Although he is barely there in the course of the story, Gusta’s father’s presence reverberates throughout the book. His wise advice keeps her going and his reminders help her to show courage even when she is terrified. A foreign born labour organizer, August Neubronner has to flee for his life at the start of the story. However, that is just the beginning of Gusta’s troubles. As she settles into life in the orphanage and in a new town, she discovers that not all are open to “alien” residents. Although encountering prejudice both due to her physical appearance and her foreign-born father, Gusta counters bad with good. She remains kind, selfless and brave, ready to help even those who dislike her whenever and however she can.

Secrets

There is an enjoyable amount of family secrets in this book which creates a measure of suspense and adds more drama to the story. Gusta’s extended family is a blend of interesting characters, my favorites of which are Josie and Grandma Hoopes. It’s always a pleasure to read books with strong female characters and families with a great deal of love and respect for each other. In the end, it is as Anne Nesbet says:

“We discover things about our parents, our whole lives long”

 

In Summary

Gusta is one of my favorite child protagonists in a long time. I was filled with tremendous admiration for the character that Nesbet has created. It is also ultimately refreshing to read a book that will simultaneously ignite in children a curiosity for history while creating awareness about prejudice. I particularly enjoyed reading how the kids dealt with discrimination and of the wonderful bond between them all. The Orphan of Springdale is powerful, necessary and very well written.

If you're looking for children's fiction that is realistic and will help kids develop empathy, courage and awareness, then The Orphan Band of Springdale is highly recommended! Click To Tweet

If you’re looking for children’s fiction that is realistic and will help kids develop empathy, courage and awareness, then The Orphan Band of Springdale is highly recommended!

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