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FOR LOVERS OF HISTORICAL ADVENTURE, A FAMILY APART IS THE MIDDLE-GRADE ANSWER TO CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE'S NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING ORPHAN TRAIN.   Imagine being taken from your home. Imagine your mother is the one who lets it happen.   This is the fate that befalls the Kelly children. It’s 1856, and their widowed mother has sent them west from New York City because she’s conv FOR LOVERS OF HISTORICAL ADVENTURE, A FAMILY APART IS THE MIDDLE-GRADE ANSWER TO CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE'S NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING ORPHAN TRAIN.   Imagine being taken from your home. Imagine your mother is the one who lets it happen.   This is the fate that befalls the Kelly children. It’s 1856, and their widowed mother has sent them west from New York City because she’s convinced that she can’t give them the life they deserve.   The Kellys board an “orphan train” and are taken to St. Joseph, Missouri, where their problems only grow worse. It was bad enough that they had to say goodbye to their mother, but now they’re forced to part ways with their fellow siblings as well. Thirteen-year-old Frances won’t stand for it. She’s going to protect her brothers and sisters, even if it means dressing up like a boy and putting herself in danger.   Will Frances be able to save her siblings? And what about her mom—was splitting up their family really her greatest act of love? Ride the rails with Frances and her siblings to find out!   “This is as close to a perfect book as you’ll buy this year.” –VOYA


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FOR LOVERS OF HISTORICAL ADVENTURE, A FAMILY APART IS THE MIDDLE-GRADE ANSWER TO CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE'S NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING ORPHAN TRAIN.   Imagine being taken from your home. Imagine your mother is the one who lets it happen.   This is the fate that befalls the Kelly children. It’s 1856, and their widowed mother has sent them west from New York City because she’s conv FOR LOVERS OF HISTORICAL ADVENTURE, A FAMILY APART IS THE MIDDLE-GRADE ANSWER TO CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE'S NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING ORPHAN TRAIN.   Imagine being taken from your home. Imagine your mother is the one who lets it happen.   This is the fate that befalls the Kelly children. It’s 1856, and their widowed mother has sent them west from New York City because she’s convinced that she can’t give them the life they deserve.   The Kellys board an “orphan train” and are taken to St. Joseph, Missouri, where their problems only grow worse. It was bad enough that they had to say goodbye to their mother, but now they’re forced to part ways with their fellow siblings as well. Thirteen-year-old Frances won’t stand for it. She’s going to protect her brothers and sisters, even if it means dressing up like a boy and putting herself in danger.   Will Frances be able to save her siblings? And what about her mom—was splitting up their family really her greatest act of love? Ride the rails with Frances and her siblings to find out!   “This is as close to a perfect book as you’ll buy this year.” –VOYA

30 review for A Family Apart

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Gail

    Behold! Another book from my childhood I had forgotten completely about. But man, I read this so many times as a kid. I literally read the cover off of it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    I think I read A Family Apart in third grade. I just remember that it made a big impression on me, enough so that I related the whole plot, details and all, to my grandmother in one sitting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I remember reading these as a child and I absolutely loved them. I figure if the memory of a book has been able to stick with me for over twenty years it deserves four stars. I also remember that these were the first characters I cried for in a book, the first time I was moved to an outburst of emotion by written word. Those are the types of things that stick with a bibliophile. Read in fifth grade.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    I read this book on an airplane when I was like 8; my mom looked over and I was BAWLING with tears streaming down my face. At first she thought I somehow hurt myself but nope, just sobbing about a sad book. #sensitivechildproblems

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    I think I read this book for the first time in 6th grade. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic lately so I've been rereading books from my childhood. I remembered that while I liked the Orphan Train series, It always bugged me that at some point (I don't remember which book) the children were allowed to go back and live with their mother and most of the 6 children declined. Having reread it, it still bugs, but I can see why the children chose to live apart through the characterization of Frances Mary in I think I read this book for the first time in 6th grade. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic lately so I've been rereading books from my childhood. I remembered that while I liked the Orphan Train series, It always bugged me that at some point (I don't remember which book) the children were allowed to go back and live with their mother and most of the 6 children declined. Having reread it, it still bugs, but I can see why the children chose to live apart through the characterization of Frances Mary in this first installment. Good reason or not, their mother abandoned them. There has to be ramifications stemming from that. Anyway, this books sets the stage for the rest of the series as the children are sent out west on the Orphan Train. History wise, at times it appears as if the author read a few textbooks and went from there trying to explain historical events like the Missouri Compromise or the Fugitive Slave Act through wooden and clunky dialogue. The climax in which Frances Mary, who disguises herself as a boy in order to be adopted with her youngest brother is cliche and predicable. She joins her new family in helping slaves on the Underground Railroad and is nearly arrested for her part. However, once everyone realizes she's a girl all is forgiven and the charges are dropped. I can't decide if that's historically accurate or merely the stereotype of the period. The Underground Railroad part is strange as well. It is interesting to read about Frances Mary's new relatives leaving their privileged homes in New England to move to Kansas in order make it a free (non slave) state. However, Frances Mary too easily accepts (and her adoptive parents too easily tell) their views on slavery and the like. Would a very poor, uneducated, Irish girl from New York City really know as much about slaves and slavery as Frances Mary does? Yet, A Family Apart is a young adult book that tries to educate this historical time period for young readers. In the sense the book works. It is a quick read that will have you reaching for the next book in the series not long after you turn the last page.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bev Walkling

    This was a fun quick read set in the years shortly before the American Civil War. When modern day children find themselves bored in Missouri their grandmother helps them take a look at the past through the Journal of their great great great grandmother. Francis Kelly and her siblings live with lots of love and hard work but very little else. To keep her son out of jail for theft, francis's mother agrees to send her 6 children to new homes out West where they will hopefully have food and the oppor This was a fun quick read set in the years shortly before the American Civil War. When modern day children find themselves bored in Missouri their grandmother helps them take a look at the past through the Journal of their great great great grandmother. Francis Kelly and her siblings live with lots of love and hard work but very little else. To keep her son out of jail for theft, francis's mother agrees to send her 6 children to new homes out West where they will hopefully have food and the opportunity for an education. A theme throughout the book is Sacrifice - being willing to give up something you prize for the greater good. This is a lesson Francis has to learn over time and it includes exposure to the underground railway where people break the law to do what is morally right. This book is set at Grade 6 reading level but I really enjoyed it and will check if my local library has other books in the series that tell what happened to the other Kelly siblings.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    A Family Apart is the first book in the Orphan Train Adventures series. The books follow the paths of the six Kelly children who are sent by their mother out to St Joseph, Missouri where they can hopefully find better lives than she can provide from them back in New York City. The first book in the series, not only tells the story of the children being sent West, but focuses on Frances Mary, the eldest of the six Kellys. In her story, Frances pretends to be a boy to be able to stay with her young A Family Apart is the first book in the Orphan Train Adventures series. The books follow the paths of the six Kelly children who are sent by their mother out to St Joseph, Missouri where they can hopefully find better lives than she can provide from them back in New York City. The first book in the series, not only tells the story of the children being sent West, but focuses on Frances Mary, the eldest of the six Kellys. In her story, Frances pretends to be a boy to be able to stay with her youngest brother Petey. She learns how to milk a cow, cut wheat from a field, and she even helps her new father with the Underground Railroad. The story, while not necessarily true, does have basis in history. The Orphan Train was a real thing and Ms. Nixon does a great job of bringing it to life with characters that children will love for years to come.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Amazing! Such a fascinating story!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    So much more moving than I remembered from middle school. So much less plot than I remembered from middle school. 😄 Still, an excellent setup for a truly gripping series. This was one of the linchpins of my early love for historical fiction! I wish more of the other books featured Frances. She's such a plucky character and I would read a spinoff sequel about her adult life without hesitation! So much more moving than I remembered from middle school. So much less plot than I remembered from middle school. 😄 Still, an excellent setup for a truly gripping series. This was one of the linchpins of my early love for historical fiction! I wish more of the other books featured Frances. She's such a plucky character and I would read a spinoff sequel about her adult life without hesitation!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Honey

    It's fun reading history from a Youth's perspective. I'll have to look for the next book to find out how Mike made out! It's fun reading history from a Youth's perspective. I'll have to look for the next book to find out how Mike made out!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Great middle grade reader! A heart-wrenching story of 6 siblings separated into new families after joining the Orphan Train. My son recommended I read it, after he read it in school. I think we will be reading the rest of the series.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cai Hopkins

    I’m currently on a journey of rereading favorite childhood books. This one touches on some tough topics. I would recommend this book to kids!

  13. 4 out of 5

    George

    QUICK AND EASY. INTERESTING AND ENTERTAINING. “Don’t dawdle here with your betters where you don't belong.”—page 11 How could I resist this pitch in goodreads.com’s synopsis: “FOR LOVERS OF HISTORICAL ADVENTURE, A FAMILY APART IS THE MIDDLE-GRADE ANSWER TO CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE’S NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING ORPHAN TRAIN.” I simply couldn’t. I loved Christina Baker Kline’s novel, Orphan Train (almost as much as I enjoy typing her musical name), and the temptation of a whole series of Orphan Train Adv QUICK AND EASY. INTERESTING AND ENTERTAINING. “Don’t dawdle here with your betters where you don't belong.”—page 11 How could I resist this pitch in goodreads.com’s synopsis: “FOR LOVERS OF HISTORICAL ADVENTURE, A FAMILY APART IS THE MIDDLE-GRADE ANSWER TO CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE’S NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING ORPHAN TRAIN.” I simply couldn’t. I loved Christina Baker Kline’s novel, Orphan Train (almost as much as I enjoy typing her musical name), and the temptation of a whole series of Orphan Train Adventures was just too much not to at least dabble… Adventure is the operative word in the title A Family Apart (Orphan Train Adventures #1), by Joan Lowery Nixon. The series is intended for the eight to fifteen year old crowd; and it takes a bit of exciting adventure to grab and hold that audience. That said, A Family Apart has the ring of a genuine historical novel, with a lot of entertainment and information to share with all audiences. Recommendation: Coax your kids to pick up on this series. They’ll learn stuff while enjoying an adventurous story. And enjoy a quick romp in middle-grade reading, yourself, while you’re at it. “. . . and that’s the all of it.”—page 16 (among others) Kindle edition, 162 pages

  14. 5 out of 5

    McKaela Magaldi

    The book "A family apart" is a realistic fiction by Joan Lowery Nixon(it is a series) It is the first book of the series. The book is about a family being sent west for adoption because their widow mother couldn't give them the home they deserved and her brother Mike was a pocket stealer, so if she didn't send him, he would have been sent to jail. They all were angry at their mother. They get sent to the adoption place and Frances the main character knew that she had to take care of her youngest The book "A family apart" is a realistic fiction by Joan Lowery Nixon(it is a series) It is the first book of the series. The book is about a family being sent west for adoption because their widow mother couldn't give them the home they deserved and her brother Mike was a pocket stealer, so if she didn't send him, he would have been sent to jail. They all were angry at their mother. They get sent to the adoption place and Frances the main character knew that she had to take care of her youngest brother out of 5 siblings, but most people took two boys, so Frances cut her hair, dressed like a boy so she would get partnered up with Petey it worked. She gets partnered with Petey(her youngest brother). She learns things about her family that she must keep secret, and their life depends on it. Does her family find out that she is a girl? What is the secret her family is hiding? How are her siblings? read to find out. This book is a 4/5 but it could have talked about how the others were doing too If you like the second book of this collection "caught in the act" you will most likely enjoy this one and read it because the second one would make more sense.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tish

    I think I would have liked this more if I were 10 years old. It seemed more like an attempt to describe what life was like back then, hitting on various aspects briefly and shallowly (poor Irish family in New York City, Orphan Train, outlaws, bounty hunters chasing escaped slaves) than a real story about real-seeming people. A lot of issues and situations were brought up that would probably provide good discussion topics, but I never really felt like the author brought them to life. I would rath I think I would have liked this more if I were 10 years old. It seemed more like an attempt to describe what life was like back then, hitting on various aspects briefly and shallowly (poor Irish family in New York City, Orphan Train, outlaws, bounty hunters chasing escaped slaves) than a real story about real-seeming people. A lot of issues and situations were brought up that would probably provide good discussion topics, but I never really felt like the author brought them to life. I would rather she have focused on one or two and delved into them a bit deeper and given the reader some real insight into that aspect of our country's history. Given the topics, though (adoption, poverty, slavery, etc.), maybe that wouldn't be appropriate for children of the target age?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    As a reading specialist, I am very excited to try this novel with some of my enrichment middle school students. There are so many interesting themes and choices during the course of this book - the meaning of sacrifice, the underground railroad, theft, forgiveness, adoption, orphan trains, and the love of siblings. I hope the other books in this series are as interesting as this one. #2 - I used this book with a group of three boys in sixth grade who are excellent readers. They are more used to s As a reading specialist, I am very excited to try this novel with some of my enrichment middle school students. There are so many interesting themes and choices during the course of this book - the meaning of sacrifice, the underground railroad, theft, forgiveness, adoption, orphan trains, and the love of siblings. I hope the other books in this series are as interesting as this one. #2 - I used this book with a group of three boys in sixth grade who are excellent readers. They are more used to science fiction with loads of action. They felt the beginning was too slow and lost interest at first, but the last few chapters won them over a little bit. They felt it got a 2.5 with them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    BookBoaster

    I read this book with the intention of using it in my 7th grade language arts classroom since our second semester focus is historical fiction. After watching a documentary on the orphan trains, and doing my own research, I found that these people, abandoned and forgotten as kids, were also a forgotten piece of history. In search of a novel, I came upon A Family Apart. I wanted something that was intriguing from start to finish with a lot of imagery. This book was everything I hoped it would be a I read this book with the intention of using it in my 7th grade language arts classroom since our second semester focus is historical fiction. After watching a documentary on the orphan trains, and doing my own research, I found that these people, abandoned and forgotten as kids, were also a forgotten piece of history. In search of a novel, I came upon A Family Apart. I wanted something that was intriguing from start to finish with a lot of imagery. This book was everything I hoped it would be and I'm definitely going to use it in my classroom.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    When I checked this book out I thought it would be boring. I judged it by its cover. But then I started reading it and I sort of liked it. It starts out slow but progresses and starts to get exiting. The main character is Frances Mary, she cleans at a shop to earn money for her family. One day Frances's mother decides that she needs to send the 6 children to new families in the west to give them a better life. That's we're the journey begins… When I checked this book out I thought it would be boring. I judged it by its cover. But then I started reading it and I sort of liked it. It starts out slow but progresses and starts to get exiting. The main character is Frances Mary, she cleans at a shop to earn money for her family. One day Frances's mother decides that she needs to send the 6 children to new families in the west to give them a better life. That's we're the journey begins…

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dellaknowsdobby

    I read this series in 5-6ish grade and really liked it! I recently re-read the series because I was craving some good historical fiction. It's a believable and moving series about a separated family in a time of hardship. By far one of the better historical fiction series for middle grade readers out there. I read this series in 5-6ish grade and really liked it! I recently re-read the series because I was craving some good historical fiction. It's a believable and moving series about a separated family in a time of hardship. By far one of the better historical fiction series for middle grade readers out there.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I remember LOVING this book as a kid. I still love it. And the entire series.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Every time Orphan Train comes up in my update feed, I'm reminded of this series that came out when I was in middle school. I loved it at the time, but haven't seen it since... Every time Orphan Train comes up in my update feed, I'm reminded of this series that came out when I was in middle school. I loved it at the time, but haven't seen it since...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I really liked this book although I found the ending really weak. (view spoiler)[Was no one else bothered by the fact that both Frances and Mrs. Mueller thought it was a good idea to wrap the cheese in the very same shawl the bounty hunters had described at least twice by that time? A shawl that should have been burned immediately instead of being left in plain sight in the kitchen? The bounty hunters weren't the sharpest group either - they didn't search the wagon and they were put off by Kathe I really liked this book although I found the ending really weak. (view spoiler)[Was no one else bothered by the fact that both Frances and Mrs. Mueller thought it was a good idea to wrap the cheese in the very same shawl the bounty hunters had described at least twice by that time? A shawl that should have been burned immediately instead of being left in plain sight in the kitchen? The bounty hunters weren't the sharpest group either - they didn't search the wagon and they were put off by Katherine's happy little chuckle that she owned the very same shawl after Frances told them she found it on the ground? Very weak ending IMO (hide spoiler)] This is the first in a series about five siblings sent west from NYC on the Orphan Train because their widowed mother can no longer provide for them. They are split up and the first book concentrates mostly on Frances, the eldest, who is adopted with her youngest brother Petey by pretending to be a boy - also kind of a weak plot point but believable enough for the target audience. After numerous historically correct adventures on the train and in their new home, all ends well as Petey and Frances settle in with their new loving adoptive parents and the second book in the series moves on to Mike's story. Not being a series kind of reader, I'm not sure if I will follow through with the rest of the series, but Nixon certainly knows how to end a book with a cliff hanger!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Neer

    This is a good introduction for middle grade readers to Irish immigration in the mid 1800's, the Underground Railroad and the Missouri Compromise and Orphan Trains. First in a series about a family of children and their Orphan Train adventure, my favorite quote comes from when the oldest child realizes the meaning of the sacrifice their mother gave when sending them west for better lives : " Sacrifice is not always easy to understand. It means that someone or something else means more to you tha This is a good introduction for middle grade readers to Irish immigration in the mid 1800's, the Underground Railroad and the Missouri Compromise and Orphan Trains. First in a series about a family of children and their Orphan Train adventure, my favorite quote comes from when the oldest child realizes the meaning of the sacrifice their mother gave when sending them west for better lives : " Sacrifice is not always easy to understand. It means that someone or something else means more to you than your own self. -It means that you can love someone or some idea enough to give up something that you prize, in order to make people’s lives better."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karen Malin

    Nixon writes about a family of six children in New Yorkwho lose their father which results in a huge struggle for the basics in life, no matter how hard their mother tries. The first half of the book tells about their struggle and the trip out west on the Orphan Train after her mother gives the children up to keep one of her sons out of jail; the second half of the book tells about Frances Mary's experiences with her youngest brother and her new family. The subject of slavery, the Underground Ra Nixon writes about a family of six children in New Yorkwho lose their father which results in a huge struggle for the basics in life, no matter how hard their mother tries. The first half of the book tells about their struggle and the trip out west on the Orphan Train after her mother gives the children up to keep one of her sons out of jail; the second half of the book tells about Frances Mary's experiences with her youngest brother and her new family. The subject of slavery, the Underground Railroad, and sacrifice play heavily in the second. A very good read for 4th-6th grade mature readers.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    The story is set in 1856, it's a group of kids and their widowed mother. She has sent them west from New York City because she’s convinced that she can’t give them the life they deserve. They board an “orphan train” and are taken to St. Joseph, Missouri. The kids ended up having to say goodbye to their mother, but now they’re forced to part ways with their fellow siblings as well. Frances even goes so far to protect her brothers and sisters, even if it means dressing up like a boy and putting he The story is set in 1856, it's a group of kids and their widowed mother. She has sent them west from New York City because she’s convinced that she can’t give them the life they deserve. They board an “orphan train” and are taken to St. Joseph, Missouri. The kids ended up having to say goodbye to their mother, but now they’re forced to part ways with their fellow siblings as well. Frances even goes so far to protect her brothers and sisters, even if it means dressing up like a boy and putting herself in danger. The book has no illustrations but it is definitely a good book to read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura Kessel

    This book, the first in a series, is one of my childhood favorites. It tackles several hard issues, with the Kelly family facing extreme poverty and discrimination, and their mother's decision to send all six children west on the Orphan Train in the hopes that they will have better lives, although they will likely be separated from one another. There's also an Underground Railroad adventure and an attack by outlaws. One criticism of the book now is that more characters of color could have been i This book, the first in a series, is one of my childhood favorites. It tackles several hard issues, with the Kelly family facing extreme poverty and discrimination, and their mother's decision to send all six children west on the Orphan Train in the hopes that they will have better lives, although they will likely be separated from one another. There's also an Underground Railroad adventure and an attack by outlaws. One criticism of the book now is that more characters of color could have been included, with more agency.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    I really liked this book and I read it quickly. I think the plot was good, but at first I was a little confused about who was telling the story, but then I figured out it was in the future and the great granddaughter of Francis Ellen telling the story to her grandchildren. I love books set in the past because I get to learn a lot about how life was like for most people back then. Though I liked the first book, I tried to read the next few that I had, but thought they were too boring. I just thin I really liked this book and I read it quickly. I think the plot was good, but at first I was a little confused about who was telling the story, but then I figured out it was in the future and the great granddaughter of Francis Ellen telling the story to her grandchildren. I love books set in the past because I get to learn a lot about how life was like for most people back then. Though I liked the first book, I tried to read the next few that I had, but thought they were too boring. I just think that the ending to this book was perfect and I didn't want to go on.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lily Wallaker

    Beautiful! The only reason that I didn't give this book five stars is because the writing can be a bit choppy at times. This book tells the story of a family with six children whose mom is unable to provide for them any longer, and so she sends all six away to be adopted by families in the West. Heartbroken, the oldest child, Frances Mary, must make spur-of-the-moment decisions about how to keep as much of her family together as possible while finding the best homes for all of them, even if it m Beautiful! The only reason that I didn't give this book five stars is because the writing can be a bit choppy at times. This book tells the story of a family with six children whose mom is unable to provide for them any longer, and so she sends all six away to be adopted by families in the West. Heartbroken, the oldest child, Frances Mary, must make spur-of-the-moment decisions about how to keep as much of her family together as possible while finding the best homes for all of them, even if it means pretending to be someone she isn't. This would also be a great family read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I must have read the first four books in this series half a dozen times growing up. So far my enjoyment of it holds up pretty well. My main complaint with this one is that there isn't much time spent after the arrival in their new home, since most of the book covers their backstory and how they got there. Still worth reading, and was pleased to learn there are three books in the series that I never got to read previously but are available as ebooks from my local library. I must have read the first four books in this series half a dozen times growing up. So far my enjoyment of it holds up pretty well. My main complaint with this one is that there isn't much time spent after the arrival in their new home, since most of the book covers their backstory and how they got there. Still worth reading, and was pleased to learn there are three books in the series that I never got to read previously but are available as ebooks from my local library.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allison Tubaugh

    Genres: historical fiction Grades: 3-6 A family apart is another great book about a family of orphans and their journey to find a new forever home. This book can be relatable to any child who come from an adoptive family or is going through that process. The question is will they be separated or will they remain together? To find out their destiny with a new family you’ll have to read A family Apart.

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