Karen Cushman

Karen Cushman

Newbery award-winning children’s book author

Karen Cushman




Rodzina Clara Jadwiga Anastazya Brodski is the new face in Karen Cushman’s gallery of unforgettable heroines. One of a group of orphans, 12-year-old Rodzina boards a train on a cold day in March 1881. She’s reluctant to leave Chicago, the only home she can remember, and she knows there’s no substitute for the family she has lost. She expects to be adopted and turned into a slave—or worse, not to be adopted at all.

As the train rattles westward, Rodzina unwittingly begins to develop attachments to her fellow travelers, even the frosty orphan guardian, and to accept the idea that there might be good homes for orphans—maybe even for a big, combative Polish girl. But no placement seems right for the formidable Rodzina, and she cleverly finds a way out of one bad situation after another, until at last she finds the family that is right for her.


Discussion guide

My Bookshelves: 19th Century America: You may enjoy reading the books I read while researching the times in which Rodzina lived. You may also find them helpful for your own writing.

Awards and Recognition

Booklinks Lasting Connections Selection

Parents’ Choice Gold Award

Booklist Editor’s Choice

Child Magazine, Best Books of the Year

Children’s Book of the Month Club, Best Books

ALA/Amelia Bloomer Project List

William Allen White (KS) Master List

Willa Literary Award (NM)

Keystone to Reading Master List (PA)

Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List

Washington State Book Award

Spur Award Finalist

Indian Paintbrush Children’s Book Award Master List (WY)


“Engaging characters, a vivid setting, and a prickly but endearing heroine… first-person narrative captures… personality and spirit…poignancy, humor.” (School Library Journal, starred review)

“A natural for American history or social studies classes…especially interesting as a women’s history title…a great story.” (Booklist, starred review)

“Rodzina is prickly, stubborn, and heart-sore but she’s also honest, likable and smart…Enough unpredictability to nicely unsettle expectations.” (The Horn Book)