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That’s One Ornery Orphan by Patricia Beatty 

Ornery Orphan

Another spirited girl takes centre stage in award-winning author Patricia Beatty’s novel of 1880’s Texas.


When Mr. Gipson delivered fast-talking Hallie Lee Baker to the Blanco County orphanage, he hopes she soon will be adopted by a respectable family. Callie wants to be “picked,” too, but not by a hated sodbuster, and she decides to waggle her way out of such an awful fate. Her attempts lead her to an assortment of foster parents: Preacher Spiller, a not-so-Christian sinister, and his pill-popping sister, Tinie; Doc Wiley and his wife, where Hallie’s purported expertise with babies gets her into trouble; and Ada Lillibridge, a flamboyant and temperamental actress whose scandalous ways shock even our open-minded heroine. After this encounter, Hallie despairs of ever finding a loving home and voluntarily returns to the orphanage, where by now the director has become a true friend.


This fast-moving tale with a happy ending is laced with the broad humour Beatty readers enjoy so much.



Patricia Beatty scores again with another plucky heroine who gets herself into, and out of, some offbeat scrapes. Hallie Lee Baker, the orphan of the title, is more tough than ornery, and she can tell a bigger whopper than most any cow-puncher in 1889 Texas. When her grandpa dies, Hallie winds up in the country orphanage, run by the steely Miz C.T. Hopkins, where lonely kids wait to be taken home by “pickers.” Hallie barely has time to befriend some of the lonelier orphans when a whopper about bad outlaw blood lands her in the house of a fire-and-brimstone preacher. He baptizes her in an ice-cold river and makes her slave over the laundry and cooking; she doses his snuff with chili pepper in revenge. Next picker is Doc Wiley, who puts Hallie to work minding babies in his clinic until she mixes up a pack of dark-haired cousins. Third is a shameless actress who smokes a cheroot and rides a horse across the stage wearing next to nothing, shocking Hallie—who cusses like a bandit but knows where to draw the line. When all’s said and done, Hallie finds herself a home in the place she least expected it (with German-speaking sodbusters) and finds a friend in old C.T. A peppery treatment of historical curiosa—for assured reader appeal.
— Kirkus