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Review: Riding the Rails to Home by Cleo Lampos

When Stephen comes home with a hard-earned loaf of bread, his ill mother keeps him away so he won’t get cholera too. He runs to get his father from the saloon but is greeted with angry mockery and disbelief. Molly, his sister, is taken away to an orphanage, but Stephen continues to live on the streets, finding work and friendship as a newsboy.

With a bleak future in late 1800’s New York City and only a quilt square to remind him of his mother and sister, Stephen heads west on the orphan train. Will he find a home? Are there actually people who will love an orphan or do they just want slaves? From narrow escapes in New York City to adventures in the West, Riding the Rails to Home follows Stephen as he discovers aspects of life that he could never have imagined.

As Pop, the kind owner of the Newsboys Lodging House tells Stephen just before he gets on the train, “Some people don’t get the love that they need from their parents. But you’ve been here long enough to know that God loves you more than you can understand. He has a plan for your life, Stephen. Try to let God guide your footsteps.” And Stephen does.

A former educator, Cleo Lampos realized that the orphan train children of the past have much in common with today’s foster children—often there are abuse, addicted parents, loneliness, bitterness, and a deep distrust. She deals carefully with these themes, not letting them overwhelm young readers. Boys aged 9-12 will find Riding the Rails to Home a fast-paced yet tender story of a young boy who finds a home and learns about forgiveness and love.

I highly recommend this book for children, especially those who, as the dedication says, ‘face challenges that can be overwhelming.” I also encourage parents to read it and be prepared for discussions and questions.

You can find more fiction by Cleo Lampos on her website.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up. 

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.  I am not compensated for providing my honest opinions.

This may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday.

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