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  • Alisa Williams

Book Review: The Orphan Band of Springdale

The Science of Virtue by Mark R. McMinn

The Orphan Band of Springdale

Written by Anne Nesbet

Candlewick Press, 2018

Buy Now on Amazon: Hardcover | Kindle

This book stole my heart! I have hesitated a long while after reading it before writing this review, because my words feel small and insignificant compared to the magnitude and depth of this lovely middle-grade piece of literature. My review could simply be, “Go out and buy this book now!” and that lone sentence would encapsulate my excitement, or I could write paragraphs on paragraphs and still not be able to fully show my appreciation for Anne Nesbet’s latest work. So, I’ll settle for somewhere in between that one sentence and a novel of my own to express myself.

Set in 1941, we meet main character Gusta Newbronner alone on a bus, traveling from bustling New York City to the solitude of northern Maine. Gusta has a secret – many secrets, in fact, and we learn them one by one as Gusta shares her story. And oh, what a story it is!

Gusta is a ball of extremely relatable anxiety due to the many secrets she carries, from little ones like her near-sightedness to bigger ones like her father’s mysterious disappearance and the warrant out for his arrest. The world is at war and with a name like Newbronner, not everyone thinks Gusta belongs in Springdale, Maine. One classmate, in fact, sets out to prove that Gusta is no “true American” at all.

Like all great stories, this one is a timeless look at so many facets of life: the importance of community, the weight of secrets, the love of family, and what it means to truly belong somewhere — and how you discover where that is.

This is a story so full of magic and hope that I wasn’t able to put it down until I knew how it would end. I was delighted to learn after I’d finished the book that pieces of it were based on Nesbet’s mother’s own life in Maine. There were so many unique and thoughtful little details throughout that Gusta Newbronner jumped to life on the page, and so finding out she was based significantly on a real person made so much sense and made this tribute to the author’s mother all the more beautiful. This is a book I’ll be re-reading for years to come, and I can’t thank the author enough for introducing me to Gusta, her little band of orphans, and the fictional, whimsical town of Springdale, Maine.

This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.

Alisa Williams is the managing editor of She blogs at and tweets at @AWWritesStories.


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