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City of Orphans

City of Orphans

By Avi
Illustrated by: Greg Ruth
For Ages: 10 - 14
  • reading group guide
  • 5awards
Plot twists, big accusations, and plenty of shifty, crooked characters fill the pages of this harrowing adventure from Newbery Medalist Avi.

The streets of 1893 New York are crowded and filthy. For thirteen-year-old newsboy Maks Geless, they are also dangerous. Bruno, leader of the awful Plug Ugly Gang, has set his sights on Maks and orders his boys to track him down. Suddenly Maks finds himself on the run, doing all he can to evade the gang, with only his new friend Willa by his side. And that’s just the start of Mak’s troubles. His sister, Emma, has been arrested and imprisoned for stealing a watch from the glamorous new Waldorf Hotel. Maks knows she didn’t do it—but will he be able to prove it in time?
This is a riveting, quickly paced adventure set against a backdrop alive with the sights and sounds of tenement New York.
Choose a format:
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416971085 | 
  • September 2012 | 
  • Grades 5 - 9
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Read an Excerpt

1

Amazing things happen.

Look at someone on the street and you might never see that person again—ever. Then you bump into a stranger and your whole life changes—forever. See what I’m saying? It’s all ’bout them words: “luck,” “chance,” “coincidence,” “accident,” “quirk,” “miracle,” plus a lot of words I’m guessing I don’t even know.

But the thing is, I got a story that could use all them words. ’Bout a kid by the name of Maks Geless. That’s Maks, with a k.... see more

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide for

City of Orphans
By Avi

About the Book

The streets of New York in 1893 are full of life: crowded, filthy, dangerous. If you are a newsboy like thirteen-year-old Maks Geless, you need to watch out for Bruno, leader of the Plug Ugly Gang whose shadowy, sinister boss is plotting to take control of all the World newsies on the lower East Side.

With Bruno’s boys in fierce pursuit, Maks discovers Willa, a strange girl who lives alone in an alley. It is she, stick in hand, who fights off the Plug Uglies—but further dangers await. Maks must find a way to free his sister Emma from The Tombs, the city jail where she has been imprisoned for stealing a watch at the glamorous new Waldorf Hotel. Maks, believing her innocent, has only four days to prove it. Fortunately, there is Bartleby Donck, the eccentric lawyer (among other employments) to guide Maks and Willa in the art of detection. Against a backdrop alive with the sights and sounds of New York tenements, Maks, as boy detective, must confront a world teeming with wealth and crime, while struggling against powerful forces threatening new immigrants and the fabric of family love.

Text-Generated Questions

1. Avi describes the streets on the Lower East Side of New York, Willa’s alley, Mak’s tenement, the Tombs, and the apartment of Donck, the private detective, using words that in see more

About the Author

Avi
Photo Credit:

Avi

Avi is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at Avi-Writer.com.

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