Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Train to Somewhere

Bunting, Eve (Author)
Himler, Ronald (Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1996. 32 pages
First published: 1996
ISBN: 9780618040315 (paperback)
9780395713259 (hardcover)
9780547772684 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, characterization, conflict, dialogue, point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Based on the trains that carried orphans from New York City to small towns in the American Midwest between the mid-1850s and the late 1920s, this is the compelling story of 14 children looking for families to adopt them. It is told in the voice of Marianne, an older girl who tells herself her mother will be one of the townspeople waiting to meet her along the way, a narrative that seems less and less likely as the story progresses. Marianne knows she will be difficult to place since she is less adorable than the little ones and not strong enough for farm work. Through the train window, she sees herself reflected in its dirty glass and concludes: “I am not pretty.”

Understated watercolour and gouache illustrations have an old-fashioned feel to them in their depiction of the bleak, auction-like atmosphere at each train stop and the lack of identity of the orphans (with deliberately blurred faces) crowded on the platform.

Despite its theme, children will be uplifted by its quiet, hopeful ending, “Sometimes what you get turns out to be better than what you wanted in the first place,” and by the endearing elderly couple who finally adopt Marianne.

  •  

    Discuss what it means to be an orphan. Why were there orphans at the time of this story, and why might there be orphans nowadays? Why would people want to adopt children back then? Is that different from today?

  •  

    Research why families moved west during the mid-1850s to the late 1920s.

  •  

    Discuss and write a response reflecting on how the girl might have felt on the train and when she was looking for her mother. Did she find a family? What makes a family?

  •  

    Make a family tree and explain the family connections. This could be finished at home and then shared with the class.

  •  

    Discuss the meaning of being an orphan? Why were there orphans at the time of this story and why might there any nowadays? Why would people want to adopt children back then? Is that different from today?

  •  

    Find descriptions of the children. Separate physical and personality traits.

  •  

    Discuss and write a response reflecting on how the girl would have felt on the train and when she was looking for her mother. Did she find a family? What makes a family?

  •  

    Make a family tree and explain the family connections. This could be finished at home and then shared with the class.

  •  Read the reviews on the back cover. Identify keywords and make predictions for this book.
  •  Imagine you are Marianne. Write a short journal entry for each stop along her journey until she finally reaches Somewhere.
  •  It’s 20 years later. You are a local journalist who wants to interview people, now adults, who were on the “orphan trains.” You interview Marianne. In your article, include memories of her past and write about how those experiences shaped her values.
  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences