Children - Preteen
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 04/29/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Emily-Jane Hills Orford is an award-winning author of several books, including To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named Finalist and Silver Medallist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She writes about the extra-ordinary in life and her books, short stories, and articles are receiving considerable attention. For more information on the author, check out her website at:

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Gerlinda is an historical novel written for preteens and new young adults by Emily-Jane Hills Orford. Gerlinda was a bit of an outcast at Chambers Elementary School. The eighth-grader wore a dress that was tattered and shabby, and had probably never been washed. She smelled funny because there was no soap at home and the hot water heater at home was broken, so there was no way for her to even wash or keep her clothing clean. Hunger was a part of her daily existence, but she made sure never to let her father hear her complain or ask for food. His responses to both her, her siblings, and her mother were swift and brutal. Her father was German and had been part of the Hitler Youth movement, but now he was simply the angry and often drunken man who terrorized his family. While it was now 1966, some twenty years after the war, he remained angry over the defeat of the Germans and the aftermath of WWII. The other eighth-graders at school avoided being near Gerlinda because of her unfortunate body odor, and there was a group of boys and girls who delighted in teasing her. Still, Gerlinda was a first pick for any sports team, and she was a faster and better athlete than any of those boys who had so much fun picking on her. When the school tryouts for the swim team were announced, Gerlinda thought this would be her chance to finally fit in. Then she got to know Mrs. Martinez, who was the shopkeeper at one of the stores Gerlinda had to steal from to feed the family, and somehow the kindly woman became her mentor and her friend.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s preteen and new young adult historical novel, Gerlinda, grabbed my attention from the first page. This is a marvelous novel! I couldn’t help but feel for the young girl who had so much going for her, but was so hampered by her dysfunctional family situation. The author’s handling of the cultural upheavals that were the result of the Second World War is intelligent and perceptive. I was angered by the insensitivity and sadistic impulses of Gerlinda’s father, and thrilled when she found both her voice and her friend. Gerlinda is a beautifully written look at the not-so-distant past, and one can’t help but notice the changes that have taken place in dealing with cases of domestic abuse and neglect. This preteen and new young adult novel is stunningly good, and it’s most highly recommended.

Faridah Nassozi

Although not even a teen yet, Gerlinda carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. Between her drunken abusive father and a negligent mother, she had to fend for herself and her siblings, and often act as a buffer between them and the father, even if this meant her taking the beating whenever he threw his drunken tantrums. Unfortunately, things were not any better at school where she was always treated as a misfit by her classmates and an object of constant taunting by the school bullies. But Gerlinda had learned to hide her emotions and not let her circumstances get to her or get in the way of her dreams. The fact that she excelled at both class work and other activities just made the students hate her more, and this was made even worse when she decided to sign up for the swim team. Just when she thought she would never catch a break, a kind stranger offered her a shoulder to cry on and a chance at a friendship that would change her life.

Gerlinda by Emily-Jane Hills Orford is a deeply touching story of various social issues, especially focusing on how they affect kids, including poverty, bullying, diversity etc. Gerlinda's story echoes the pain of countless kids growing up in unsafe environments, both at home and away, who suffer in silence or even worse while society looks on with no intervention. However, it is also a very inspiring read that send a strong message to all kids living in the same situation to never let their circumstances stop them from dreaming or allow anyone to prevent them from going after their dreams. Hopefully, Gerlinda's resilience will be a source of inspiration for others. Emily-Jane Hills Orford portrayed the main character in a way that defied stereotypes, showing her as a witty, strong persona who would never let anyone push her around just because they are more privileged. I found that to be really remarkable.

Katelyn Hensel

We all know the story of what happened in World War II, and how the Allied forces defeated the Nazis. Many Americans have grandfathers, or great-uncles who fought in the war, who have been cornerstones of North American patriotism for decades. But what about the other side? Germans were caught up in Hitler's ambition and brainwashed from a young age by the requirements of the Hitler Youth programs. Those women and men thought they were doing the right thing, and that didn't stop after the war. Devastated families, jobless and held in contempt by the world around them, struggled to get by. This is the life that Gerlinda has known. Her father, a dedicated Hitler Youth member, has transplanted the family to North America to seek job prospects, but the family sinks further into alcoholism, depression, and abuse. Gerlinda tries as hard as she can to succeed in school, despite the mean kids picking on her for her dress and occasional German outbursts.

Gerlinda by Emily-Jane Hills Orford was strongly crafted and, as a reader, I felt as though I was there with Gerlinda as she struggled. I wanted to fight off her abusive father, to yell at the mean kids in school, and mostly give her a bath and a clean set of clothes. I did feel that a stronger ending would have been appreciated. There are several shocking revelations and plot twists that will change Gerlinda's life and outlook forever, yet they were done so quickly that I barely had time to process these. Still, Gerlinda by Emily-Jane Hills Orford was a very thought-provoking book. The author explores family dynamics not only historically, but in looking at an alternative picture to what is normally portrayed.