Double Luck: Memoirs of a Chinese Orphan



Double Luck is the autobiography of Chi Fa, an orphaned boy who grew up in Communist China.  Chi Fa lived with different relatives before living with his brother in Shanghai.  He begged for a living before moving to Taiwan to live with an aunt and serving in the army there.  Chi Fa was only able to attend school for one year as a child.  In 1969, Chi Fa fulfilled his dream of immigrating to the United States.  

Double Luck is a chapter book for middle and high schoolers.  It can easily relate to a study of Chinese history, as well as being a true story about a boy the same age as students.  The themes of overcoming adversity in a real setting are another great part of this story.  This is another book that students could use to make timelines to map out the main character’s journey.

Fa C.  (2000).  Double luck: Memoirs of a chinese orphan.  New York: Holiday House.


Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House



Jim Limber Davis is the biography of a black boy rescued from his cruel guardian by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  Jim was registered as a free black child by Davis and lived happily with the Davis family during the Civil War.  After the Civil War ended, Davis was arrested and Jim was sent to the Northern states as an example of the evils of slavery.  Jim tried to argue that Davis had not enslaved him, but no one believed him.  When Davis was released from prison, Jim had disappeared and was never heard from again.  To this day, no one knows what became of Jim.

Jim Limber Davis is a picture book for second, third, and fourth graders.  The illustrations are paintings that give a accurate of the Civil War era.  This book would go well with a Civil War unit, especially since it includes both the Union and Confederacy in the story.  I would break down reading this story into at least two days to include mini-lessons on slavery and Jefferson Davis.

Pittman, R.  (2007).  Jim limber davis: A black orphan in the confederate white house.  Gretna: Pelican Publishing.

Children of the Orphan Trains



Children of the Orphan Trains is the true story of the American Indian children sent away from their people and forced to learn European culture and customs.  Some of these children were orphans; others were not.  These children hoped to perform well enough to be adopted.  Some children succeeded while others ran away or died.

Children of the Orphan Trains is a good choice for second and third graders and connects to American history.  The book is illustrated with photographs.  The photographs have text captions, which is an important feature to point out to students.  Before reading the captions, I would ask students to infer what is happening in each photograph and to predict the emotions the Indian children felt.  At the end of reading, students would have the opportunity to write how they would feel if they were forced to leave home and become a member of a different society.

Littlefield, H.  (2001).  Children of the orphan trains.  Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.

Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War


Last Airlift is the true story of a Vietnamese orphan named Tuyet.  During the fall of Saigon, orphans were airlifted out of the country.  Most of these orphans were babies, but Tuyet was allowed to go to help calm the crying babies on the airlift.  Tuyet was adopted by a Canadian family, who helped adjust to life in a new family and the new culture of the country.

This book is for fourth through sixth graders.  Last Airlift is a great addition to the classroom library because it is non-fiction, which I would promote as much as possible.  The story provides integration with history as it will provoke discussion of the Vietnam War.  I would break the story into several sections and have each student create a timeline of the events in the book.

Skrypuch, M.  (2013).  Last airlift: A vietnamese orphan’s rescue from war.  Toronto: Pajama Press.



Locomotion tells the story of orphaned Lonnie in poetic form.  After Lonnie’s parents were killed in a fire, he was separated from his sister and put in foster care.  Lonnie struggles with feelings of loneliness and sadness as he reflects on the past and faces the future.  He writes them in a poetry notebook as part of a school assignment, experimenting with different forms and finding an outlet for his pain.

Locomotion is for students in grades 4-6.  I like Locomotion because it exposes students to so many forms of poetry, as well as showing them how poetry can tell a story and express a number of feelings.  Students could read the poems in small group and even try to write some of their own.

Woodson, J.  (2010).  Locomotion.  New York: Speak.




Madeline is the story of a French orphan living in Paris with eleven other orphans and a nun named Miss Clavel.  Readers hear about the daily life of the girls as they visit iconic French attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.  The fearless Madeline is not afraid of tigers in the zoo and bravely faces an appendectomy.

Young readers in kindergarten and first grade will love the stories of Madeline in the original book and its many sequels.  The rhymes of the story’s poetry make the book even more memorable, along with the author’s beautiful paintings.  This makes Madeline an excellent read-aloud choice, plus it is a book students will revisit on their own during self-selected reading time.  I would add a virtual field trip to Paris to show students what Madeline and her friend visited on their daily walks.

Behelmans, L.  (1940).  Madeline.  New York: Viking Juvenile.

The Orphan of Ellis Island



The Orphan of Ellis Island is the story of Dominic Cantori, who has spent his life in foster care.  When visiting Ellis Island, Dominic falls asleep in a closet and wakes up in Italy in 1908.  Dominic befriends three other orphans who are seeking money for passage to America.  When one of the orphans dies, Dominic takes his spot on the journey to Ellis Island and discovers he may have found some real family of his own.  

This chapter book is for readers in third-fifth grades.  It depicts a portrait of the immigrant experience for Italians moving to the United States in the early twentieth century, providing an important history lesson.  For a reader response, I would have students write journal entries as as immigrants and provide other resources to learn about this important group of people, including non-fiction articles and a virtual field trip to Ellis Island.

Woodruff, E.  (1997).  The orphan of ellis island.  New York: Scholastic.