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  • In The Face of Danger
  • Written by Joan Lowery Nixon
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  • In The Face of Danger
  • Written by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307827586
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Written by Joan Lowery NixonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Joan Lowery Nixon


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: November 27, 2013
Pages: 160 | ISBN: 978-0-307-82758-6
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Shy Megan Kelly cannot forget the day a gypsy read her palm announcing to all that she would bring trouble to those around her. Afterward, trouble does follow her, until she takes the necessary steps to free herself from the burdens of fear, loneliness, and superstition
Joan Lowery Nixon

About Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon - In The Face of Danger

Photo © Gittings

“In every story I write I give a great deal of thought to the main character, because the story is his, or hers. The direction of the story is determined by the main character’s ambitions and reactions. The main character is the one to whom the readers will relate.”—Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award and a two-time winner of the California Young Reader Medal.


Whether it’s engrossing historical dramas, chilling mysteries, suspense-filled page-turners, or adventure stories, kids, teachers, and librarians love the books of Joan Lowery Nixon.

Nixon is half Californian, half Texan. She has a degree in journalism and credentials in elementary education. Nixon has written over 130 books for children from preschool age through young adult—including science books, co-authored with her husband, geologist Hershell Nixon. Her books have garnered numerous awards and accolades, including the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile and the Texas Institute of Letters Award. Many of Nixon’s books have won state children’s choice awards. She is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. Nixon has four children and several grandchildren.

Nixon describes the pleasure she gets from writing mystery and suspense: “When I was young I discovered an evening radio program called I Love a Mystery. It was intriguing, suspenseful, and at times absolutely terrifying, and the title was correct. I did love a mystery—on radio, in films, and especially in books. Maybe I’m really a detective at heart because much later in my life, when I began to write books for young people, I discovered writing mysteries was even more fun than reading them.

“A mystery begins to develop in my mind when something sparks an idea and a question grows from it. What would it be like to move into a house in which a murder had taken place? How would I feel if my best friend were arrested for murder on circumstantial evidence? As a question develops into an answer, I give a great deal of thought to my main character. She is the most important part of the story, and I see it take shape through her eyes. Before I write a word of the story I know how I’ll begin it and how I’ll end it, making sure to put in honest clues and distracting red herrings—just to make the mystery all the more fun to solve. I love mysteries, and I want my readers to love them, too.”

In creating the acclaimed Orphan Train Adventures, Nixon explored a time and place in America’s recent past that is not widely covered in history lessons. She explains, “It was a part of history I hadn’t known: that beginning in 1854, over 100,000 homeless children were rescued from the streets of New York City and sent by train to new homes in the West. As I researched early journals, I found many letters—some hopeful, some sad—and reports which told of tears as brothers and sisters were separated or a child was not chosen. I wanted to bring history and fiction together in an exciting, adventurous time and place, to tell the stories of those who could have traveled west on the Orphan Train.”

Many of Nixon’s readers have written to her asking how to get published. Her novel The Making of a Writer, a part memoir, part how-to book, is her answer to them. From her first publication at age 10—a poem titled “Springtime”—to her graduation from Hollywood High during World War II, Nixon shares the incidents from her childhood that helped her to develop as a writer.


“A fast-moving, entertaining mystery with an intelligent and spunky heroine.”—Booklist

“Another solid Nixon mystery without too much violence and lots of suspense.”—Booklist

“Another successful page-turner. . . . Reluctant readers and mystery lovers alike will welcome a trip to this mansion.”—School Library Journal

“Thrilling . . . a riveting tale of suspense set against a background of fascinating historical context brought up to date through e-mail and the Internet.”—School Library Journal

“Enriched with family troubles, guilty secrets, and a whiff of the supernatural, this page-turner will please the legions of Nixon fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Masterfully constructed. . . . Ingeniously plotted, fast-paced and lighthearted, this mystery manages to blend an engrossing double murder brainteaser with the blossoming of a self-conscious teen into a self-assured young woman.”—Publishers Weekly

“Nixon’s reputation as the grande dame of mysteries for young readers remains solidly intact with this thriller . . . a topnotch choice.”—Starred, School Library Journal


“As close to perfect a book. . . . The plot is rational and well-paced; the characters are real and believable; the time setting is important in U.S. history; and the values all that anyone can ask for.”—VOYA

“This exciting and touching novel projects an aura of historical reality.”—School Library Journal


“There is suspense, surprise, and heartfelt emotion, and there is a useful historical note at the end.”—Booklist


WINNER 1988 Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


In 1856, Mrs. Kelly, a young widow who is unable to provide for her children, makes the ultimate sacrifice: She sends Frances Mary, Mike, Megan, Danny, Peg, and Petey to the West on the Orphan Train, hoping that they will be adopted by families who can give them what she cannot.

Megan Kelly, the shy middle child, believes she is to blame for her family's misfortune--until a loving couple in the rugged Kansas Territory help her discover her own inner courage and strength to free herself from the burden of fear, superstition and loneliness and she helps capture an escaped murderer.


Joan Lowery Nixon is the author of more than 90 books for young readers. The only four-time recipient of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for the Best Juvenile Mystery, Nixon knows what interests readers and delivers it to them without fail. A native Californian and a transplanted Texan, Nixon lives in Houston, where she is hard at work writing more books for her legions of fans.


Pre-Reading Activity
The Orphan Train Adventures are set in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Display a map of the United States and trace the route of the Orphan Train.

The Kelly children come from New York. What attitudes toward slavery might we expect from them? In the books, the children are sent to Missouri. What attitudes might they encounter that are different from their own?

Thematic Connections

The Orphan Train Heritage Society was established to assist the thousands of men and women who came West on the Orphan Train in locating members of their families. Ask a representative of the Orphan Train Heritage Society to speak to the class. Before the visit, have students brainstorm questions to ask the speaker.

Throughout all the novels in The Orphan Train Adventures series the Kelly children experience struggles. Some struggles are unique to the historical period in which the books are set while others are struggles that children of today also face. Discuss which struggles cross time and which are bound to the Civil War era.

Letters among the main characters play an essential role in each novel. Though the reader never sees the actual contents of these letters, the contents are conveyed through the main character. Have students write a letter which could have been sent by one of the Kelly children to another.

Have students locate passages in the books that summarize a character's convictions. Let them debate whether the characters stand firm or waiver in their convictions. Here are some examples of such statements readers might find:

"Every man has a past. ...What counts is his future." (Caught in the Act p. 31)

"Part of being a woman is making decisions and accepting responsibility for them, whether they're right or wrong." (Keeping Secrets p. 156)

Throughout the series, students meet characters who are either victims of discrimination, the discriminators themselves, or against discrimination. For example, there are characters who are made to feel they are outcasts because they come from another country and characters who treat people differently because of the amount of money they have. There are characters who support slavery and those who work to stop it. Discuss these characters and situations in a themed unit on discrimination.Family and Relationships -- The children in The Orphan Train Adventures are siblings who work hard to stay close, even as they are sent far from each other. As they are placed in new families--some good, others bad--each child learns that what makes one a member of a family is not sharing the same last name but rather caring for one another. The importance of family makes this series a must read for a unit on family relationships.

Making Choices
Have students discuss the difficult decisions the Kelly children make. In A Family Apart, Mike steals in order to provide food for his family. Is he right to do so? Who else in this story knowingly breaks a law? Is one person more guilty than another? Mike knowingly steals again in A Dangerous Promise. Are these acts crimes? In another book, Mary Frances had the opportunity to work directly against slavery as she assisted runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad route. Was she breaking the law? Let students debate whether or not these people should have been punished. Is it ever right to break a law? If so, then what good are laws?

The Orphan Train Adventures are as full of mystery as they are of adventure. For example, in Caught in the Act, Mike believes his foster parents, the Friedrichs, are hiding something, and he must uncover what it is. In In the Face of Danger, Megan must discover the real meaning behind the gypsy's curse. In Keeping Secrets, Peg must find out if her new friend Violet is a Confederate spy. The mystery in each of these books makes this series a natural tie-in for any unit that has students thinking about mysteries.

The concept of "sacrifice" is developed throughout The Orphan Train Adventures. Let students look for specific places in A Family Apart where the word is used and find events where sacrifices are made. What do students learn about sacrifices from these books? Have students discuss how the willingness to make sacrifices is a part of accepting responsibility.

Interdisciplinary Connections

The train trip West was a harrowing one for the Kelly children, who had never before been out of their New York City neighborhood. Have students construct a three-dimensional relief map of the train's route across the United States. Discuss the geographical changes the Kelly children encountered as they made their way West.

Several historical figures appear within the pages of these novels. Some of the most important historical figures are Abraham Lincoln, Buffalo Bill Cody, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Quantrill. Have the students use a reference source to find out more information about each person. Ask them to discuss why the author included them in the novel.

These books take place during the Civil War. Have students create a time line of the major events preceding, during, and immediately following the Civil War.

Some people say history repeats itself. Others say history doesn't repeat itself, people do. Have students identify events in these books that have occurred at other times in history. Discuss whether they are also occurring now, and predict if they will occur in the future. Discuss wars from the past, as well as present wars, and hypothesize if war will occur in the future. Have students discuss mail-order brides and how men found wives at other times in history. These novels are chock full of events to consider, including slavery, secession, abolition, underground railroads, and orphan trains.

Science (Health)
Let students review the books looking for passages that discuss illnesses and the treatments for them, noticing how different the treatments were then compared to now. Generally, the treatments were based on home remedies that used herbs and other plants. Research what scientists and doctors of today have to say about those kinds of cures. Do any cultures today still depend on home remedies?

Vocabulary/Use of Language

Joan Lowery Nixon uses words and phrases in The Orphan Train Adventures that were common in the 1800s but are less common today. As students read the books, have them note those words and phrases, and share their examples in small groups. They should decide what the words/phrases mean, discover how (or if) they are used today, and--for fun--hypothesize what the words or phrases might mean in the future. Here are some: In In the Face of Danger, Emma offers to get mustard seed to make a "poultice" (p. 78) and Megan checks to see if there are plenty of "cow chips" and if the "crock" is filled before she begins cooking (p. 118). In Caught in the Act, Mike angrily refers to Gunter as "a stinking barrel of tallow" (p. 33). In A Place to Belong, Danny holds on to his "hard-earned coppers" (p. 3). In Keeping Secrets, Peg remembers seeing "painted ladies" (p. 126).

Teaching Ideas prepared by Teri Lesene, Ph.D., and G. Kylene Beers, Ph.D. Lesene teaches at Sam Houston State University. Beers teaches at several Houston area universities.


Review Highlights for The Orphan Train Adventures

A Family Apart
"As close to perfect a book....The plot is rational and well-paced; the characters are real and believable; the time setting is important in U.S. history; and the values all that anyone can ask for."

In the Face of Danger
"This exciting and touching novel projects an aura of historical reality."
--School Library Journal

A Dangerous Promise
"Her characters are finely drawn and multifaceted, the plot is lively, and the details are well chosen. This is history come to life."
--School Library Journal

Keeping Secrets
"The tension and danger are palpable. . .readers won't be able to put this one down, as the suspense builds steadily to a dramatic but startling conclusion that may require a hanky or two."



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