Orphan Eleven
Orphan Eleven
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Activity Guide
Listen to Chapter One, read by Renee Dorian on SoundCloud, 6:43 min
Orphan Eleven
by Gennifer Choldenko
ages 8 and up
Wendy Lamb / Random House
ISBN 978-0-3759-9064-9

Launch date: May 26, 2020


An engaging adventure from a Newbery Honor-winning storyteller for readers who love the circus, and anyone who has dreamed of finding the perfect home.

Four orphans have escaped from the Home for Friendless Children. One is Lucy, who used to talk and sing. No one knows why she doesn’t speak anymore; silence is her protection.

The orphans find work and new friends at a traveling circus. Lucy loves caring for the elephants, but she must be able to speak to them, and to warn others of danger. If Lucy doesn’t find her voice, she’ll be left behind when the circus goes on the rails. Meanwhile, people are searching for Lucy, and her puzzling past is about to catch up with her.

This lively, heartwarming novel by the award-winning author of the Tales from Alcatraz series is full of marvels and surprises.


Listening Library selection


“The tension and excitement of running away and the fun and fascinating daily life of the circus will keep young readers turning the pages, but it’s Lucy’s real-life backstory that makes Orphan Eleven a true and compelling triumph.” —Bookpage

“This uplifting tale of hope, survival and belonging has all the ingredients to become a beloved middle grade book.” —Publishers Weekly

“This story of friendship, inner strength and family comes in an adventurous package that will appeal to readers of realistic fiction.” —Booklist

“Heartwarming”—Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

“The plot races with fascinating glimpses of life in the Thirties, and insight into the children’s difficult journey as they search for hope and stability … strong historical underpinnings and characters who jump off the page.” —School Library Journal

“Carefully researched and authentically rendered … a fast paced and surprising orphan story.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A riveting, uplifting page-turner.” —Common Sense Media

“Sensitive and suspenseful” —SF Chronicle

“Pure genius, filled with heart, hope, despair and some of the most lovable characters you’ll ever meet.  The ending leaves you so satisfied, you want to pick it up and start reading, again.” —Norma, online reviewer

”A three-ring circus of a story packed with history, heartbreak, and hope. Choldenko at her best!” —Kirby Larson, author of the Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky, and the Dogs of World War II series

“Captivating, meticulously researched, and beautifully told. A spectacular book.”
—Elizabeth Partridge, National Book Award Finalist

A page-turner and an escape to the fascinating and delightful world of the circus. I'm now (almost) wishing for a baby elephant of my own.” —Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me and The List Of Things That Will Not Change 


Orphan Eleven is an amazing book with an even better story. I could read it hundreds of times and never got bored by it.”  —Abby, Sixth Grader at Lake County Elementary

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