The Orphan Band of Springdale is a middle grade novel written by Anne Nesbet. I always read the middle grade novels I receive with my oldest daughter, so I was excited about the opportunity to share another book with her.

Gusta Neubronner arrives in Sprindale, Maine to stay with her mother’s family. She wants nothing more than to fit in with her new classmates, but she immediately stands out when she fails an eye exam on the first day of school. Gusta has always known that she needs glasses, but she always used coping mechanisms like memorization to “pass” the test. Glasses are a luxury that she doesn’t think her family can afford.

Gusta also stands out because of her “foreign” name. It’s 1941, and her school is engaged in activities that highlight what it means to be a Real American, and what they as children can do to be patriots. Gusta wants to do her part, but she is also struck by the injustice that she sees around her. Her father is actually on the run from the authorities for his role in labor organization.

Gusta’s most treasured possession is a French horn that once belonged to her father. She learns that such a beautiful instrument might be worth as much as $100, and she knows that she could use that money to help pay for an operation for her Uncle Charlie, who hurt his hand in a factory accident. But can she part with her beloved horn?

It should be noted that this story takes place early in 1941, so the country has not officially entered WWII, but America is definitely preparing for war, hence the emphasis on patriotism. As an adult reader, I appreciated the allegorical parallels to our current climate, but my daughter did not pick up on this.

I would absolutely recommend The Orphan Band of Springdale to middle grade readers. This book is a nice blend of whimsy and melodrama. Gusta wants to do what’s right, but it’s hard to change the attitudes of small town people who are slow to accept new ideas. My daughter and I both enjoyed reading this together, and we’re looking forward to checking out more of Nesbet’s books in the future!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book.


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