Twelve-year-old Hank Donohue doesn't mind leaving the New York orphanage as long as his brother, Peter, goes with him. Together, the boys ride the Orphan Train to Nebraska, where they are taken in by the Olsons -- a bitter, childless couple anxious for help on their farm. Overworked and abused, Peter soon runs away, and Hank becomes the object of Mrs. Olson's unsparing criticism and Mr. Olson's violent anger. What's more, the school bully won't leave Hank alone. Hank knows he's not supposed to strike back: his mother taught him that, and, besides, Mr. Olson would kill him for fighting with the son of the man who owns the feed and grain store. But if Mr. Olson doesn't kill him, surely the loneliness will. Eventually, Hank finds help. He meets Molly McIntire, a woman who, like Hank, trusts animals more than people. He also realizes he has a bond with Emily, from the orphanage, and that he's sweet on another orphan, Hattie. Most important, Hank discovers that orphans have rights, too, although they may have to fight for them.
Jane Buchanan tells another inspiriting story, set in Nebraska in the fall of 1923, of the struggle faced by orphans.
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