Elevate Difference

The Orphan Rescue

The Orphan Rescue opens in Sosnowiec, Poland in the late spring of 1937 as twelve-year-old Miriam and her grandfather take her younger brother David to an orphanage. Miriam’s grandparents have no other choice. The Depression has been a financially trying time for everyone, and when her locksmith grandfather injures his hand and can no longer work, the family is faced with a difficult decision. Young Miriam is pulled from school to work as a butcher’s assistant, while David must go and live at the orphanage, headed by the beady-eyed, vulture-like director, Mr. Reznitsky. After already losing her parents, Miriam is devastated to say good-bye to her brother and vows to bring him home, one way or another.

The Orphan Rescue offers the pre-teen reader a strong girl character in Miriam, who is true to her word and perseveres until she fulfills her promise, even when it requires her to tell lies and transgress the rules. In the book’s afterword, the author, Anne Dublin, shares how The Orphan Rescue is based on the true story of her cousins, Miriam and Alter Chaim. Dublin also states in this section that she wanted today’s children to know that poverty throughout the world still forces families to send their children to orphanages and take them out of school to work.

Although this book is intended for pre-teens, I decided to read it to my 8-year-old daughter. She thought Miriam did the right thing because brothers and sisters have an obligation to protect one another. But she also believed “that was a long time ago, they don’t have orphanages today.” I told my daughter that these types of institutions no longer exist in our country, but we still have foster homes. This led to a fairly lengthy conversation about the few alternatives some parents have when they lose their jobs or become ill and have no immediate family to help them out.

As a former teacher, I can see that The Orphan Rescue would make a good class reader, as the subject matter holds the interest of strong readers, while the story is easy and short enough to accommodate those with lower reading skills. The book also provides teachers with numerous areas of discussion and starting points to explore other areas, such as European Geography, World Religions, the Depression, Genealogy and Child Labour.

Another idea might be to create a second version of this book for stronger or older readers. The first few chapters are very dramatic and could have been fleshed out with more period details to draw the reader further into the narrative.

Overall, The Orphan Rescue was a rich story and all the more compelling because it was true.

Written by: Heather Leighton, March 26th 2011