Author: Donna Marie Seim
Illustrator: Susan Spellman
Publisher: Peter E. Randall Publisher
ISBN: 978-1-937721-10-7

Being homeless and parentless as a young child can be scary, frightening and lonely. In Donna Marie Seim’s book, Charley, the topic of an orphan growing up a hundred years ago is told.

This one hundred and ninety-five page paperback book is targeted toward eight to twelve year old children who enjoy adventure, history and interesting family dynamics. Based on actual characters in the early nineteen hundreds, some of the locations, buildings and towns still exist today. With no profanity or frightening scenes but some slang and intentional misspellings for emphasis, the tome is covered in twenty-one chapters with a preface, and epilogue with author and illustrator biographies. There are very detailed charcoal/pencil illustrations by Susan Spellman in every chapter.

Charley Kimball Ryan is age twelve, living in Boston with his father, older brother, and younger brother and sister. After his mother passes away, his father tries hard to keep the family together but is forced to hand the three younger children over to the New England Home for Little Wanderers while he looks for work out West and the older brother is employed at the local factory.

Of course, Charley does not want to be in the orphanage, where manners are taught, children are well-behaved and rules must be obeyed. The only joy he finds is singing in the choir for Mistress Renee. And he sings wonderfully.

Thinking he is too old to be chosen for adoption, he watches his younger sister taken in by the “fancy pants” upper-class Bostonians and his younger brother sent to a family farm to be overworked. Determined, Charley knows he will find his own home someday as he tries to stay in contact with his siblings.

After singing a solo at church, Charley is selected to go to Greene, Maine to live with the Worthingtons, who have a son almost the same age as Charley, an active nine year old daughter and baby. He tries to blend in with the new family even though the brother resents him for his lack of farming skills and the granny mocks him as an Irish hoarder.

Through learning how to pick up chicken eggs, milk cows and keep them away from apples to cutting ice blocks and putting out fires, Charley reluctantly learns how to be a farmer and finds out who really cares deeply about him.

Even though it is an historical children’s fiction, this is an interesting read that could be enjoyed by all ages as it acknowledges the universal truth that every child needs a home and family. With its background research, it would make a good book report book on ways of life during the time period.

This book was furnished by the publicist for review purposes.

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