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Riding the Rails to Home: A Newsie Rides the Orphan Train
By Cleo Lampos
How can a homeless child survive the streets of Five Points, New York City in the late 1800’s?
Stephen Reily is about to find out. His mother dies from cholera; his sister is taken to an orphanage. Stephen tries to reach out to his father who spends his time drinking ale in a pub. Destitute and desperate, this ragamuffin joins the ranks of the newsies. These are the hawkers of newspapers who work the street corners during the day and sleep, eat and attend classes at the Newsboys’ Boarding House at night. But Stephen longs for a forever family, a place to belong.
Selected to ride the orphan train, Stephen encounters difficult circumstances until Betsy and Wil chose him to live on their Nebraska farm. It is with their support that Stephen faces his fears and learns to forgive his father. Throughout the novel, Stephen fingers a quilt square taken from his mother’s quilt. The women of the plains use it as a pattern to create a comforter for a cast-off child seeking a place to belong.
Riding the Rails to Home embodies the essence of the parable of the lost sheep. The newsies were a group of waifs who had become separated from home and protection. These brassy youngsters exited in a world filled with grave danger with little help. The help from the News Boys Boarding House and the love within the home of Betsy and Wil became visual aids for Stephen to understand the love of Jesus as He searches for the lost sheep. Not only does the Savior seek the unsheltered sheep, but He hoists the wooly creature on His shoulders and takes it home. The same type of experience in finding a forever family brings Stephen to a place of being able to forgive the difficulties of his past.
Cleo Lampos is a retired educator who understands the emotions of foster children. As a ward of the state in her childhood, she experienced many of the feelings that Stephen felt. Later, as an adult teaching classes of behavior disordered and emotionally disturbed children, Lampos relied on storytelling and reading books aloud to communicate emotions and concepts to her middle school students. From this background, Lampos conceived her historical fiction novel.
Research for the book sent Lampos to the Orphan Train Museum in Concordia, Kansas. She attended the Little Falls, Minnesota, Orphan Train Reunion where she listened to stories from four surviving train riders and their descendants. Reading books written by those who rode the trains, stories of foster children, and the history of the newsies prepared Lampos to bring the late 1800’s to life with realism. Riding the Rails to Home presents an accurate expression of a difficult era.
To learn more about Cleo Lampos, visit her at http://www.cleolampos.com
To be entered to win an ecopy of Riding the Rails to Home, leave a comment. Winner will be chose on July 30. Thanks.