Thursday, April 27, 2017

Now, for young readers, a version of the #1 NYT Bestselling novel ORPHAN TRAIN for younger readers. Christina Baker Kline talks about ORPHAN TRAIN GIRL

I love Christina Baker Kline. (Come on, who doesn't?) She's warm, funny and one of the most supportive friends I have. Plus, she gives great advice about writing and she loves Lazy Rivers! But Christina is not only the #1 NYT Bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World, she's also the author of Sweet Water, The Way Life Should Be and Bird In Hand. I'm delighted to host her here--and Christina, I'm still finishing up those knitted mitts for you!

Why make a younger version of your #1 New York Times bestselling novel Orphan Train?

Wherever I go, I meet mothers and fathers who are reading Orphan Train alongside their teenagers. Often they tell me they wish their younger children could read it too. School administrators who’ve assigned Orphan Train for school- and district-wide reads have struggled to find a companion text for their upper-elementary and middle schools. So I began to contemplate writing a younger version of the book that parents and caregivers could read with their children, teachers and librarians could share with their students, and school districts and communities could present as part of their “One Book” reads of Orphan Train.

I’m so glad that a younger audience will have the experience of reading Vivian’s and Molly’s stories  – and that they’ll learn about this important but little-known piece of American history.

How different did it feel to write Orphan Train Girl? Was there ever a moment that totally surprised you? Did you regret anything you had to leave out? (Or add in?)

I had never written a book for young readers, so I was lucky to have some expert help. Adapting the book presented some challenges. A number of aspects of the adult book are too disturbing for young readers. Molly, the 17-year-old protagonist in Orphan Train, is rebellious; some things that happen to Niamh, the nine-year-old train rider, are inappropriate. However, though some of the language and occurrences were toned down for Orphan Train Girl, most of the major incidents in the adult book are represented.

What do you hope younger readers will learn from the book? How do you want them changed?

I hope young readers will gain perspective on what it feels like to be a poor and unwanted child in America, a hundred years ago and today. I knew that if I could get the story right, kids would relate to Molly’s spunk and Niamh’s stamina. They would also find plenty to think and talk about in the story, which – like Orphan Train – contrasts Molly’s present-day experience as a foster kid with Vivian’s experience as an Irish immigrant in 1929.

How strange did it feel to change the points of view – and how did you change them?

Once I began developing the middle-grade story, the younger version of Molly took on a life of her own. I shifted the emphasis to Molly’s perspective and changed her age from 17 to 12, but the central plot arc – the friendship between Vivian and Molly – is still the backbone of the story. Vivian’s arc ends once she settles with the Nielsens at age 10. It was important to me to retain the tone and feel of Orphan Train. The books are designed to be read alone or side-by-side.

Any feedback from young readers yet?

Librarians, teachers, and young readers seem enthusiastic! There’s so much in the book for young readers to discuss.

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