Jake’s Orphan (Hardcover) by Peggy Brooke. Dorling Kindersley, 2000.
ISBN: 0789426285. pp: 261. Ages: 10-14, gr: 4-8
Paperback (Reprint edition August 28, 2001) Aladdin, ISBN: 0743427033. pp: 266



Life is dreary in the St Paul orphanage in 1926, so 12-year-old Tree is overjoyed when he is selected to go with Delton Gunderson to his farm in North Dakota. His joy is tempered with anxiety about pleasing the Gundersons, and with sadness at having to leave his younger brother, Acorn. He tells Acorn that he will send for him, but that doesn’t work out as Mr. Gunderson is a most demanding taskmaster and Tree always feels on the edge of being sent back to the orphanage himself. Acorn takes matters into his own hands, showing both ingenuity and recklessness in finding his way to the Gunderson farm.

The kindness of Delton’s bachelor brother, Jake, and the sympathy of Mrs. Gunderson provide succor amid the demanding work, the cruelty of peers, and the harshness of prairie life. Tree’s efforts and loyalty are rewarded in the ending which some reviewers have described as too predictable and sentimental.


  1. In what ways do Tree and Acorn differ? Why do you think these brothers are so different?
    In what ways do Delton and Jake Gunderson differ? Why do you think these brothers are so different?

  2. Find maps that show places mentioned in the book:
    • Where is the orphanage (St. Paul, Minnesota)
    • Where is the Gunderson farm? (near Crosby, North Dakota)
    • Where do the Gundersons go to visit their son? (Fargo, North Dakota)
    • How far is it from St. Paul to Crosby?
    • How far is it from Crosby to Fargo?

  3. Peggy Brooke lives near Crosby, North Dakota and uses this as the setting for Jake’s Orphan. Explore these sites for information about Crosby: http://www.crosbynd.com/
    • Peggy Brooke’s grandfather homesteaded the farm where she now lives in 1903. When was the community of Crosby founded? How old is Crosby?
    • What is the current population of Crosby? How does this compare with the community where you live?
    • What are some things that have happened in Crosby in the past several days?
    • Find out about the weather and local events in Crosby. If you were to visit Crosby, what time of year would you go?
  4. Most people who settled around Crosby were Scandinavian. What are the Scandinavian countries? Do you have any ancestors who were Scandinavian?

  5. Jake’s Orphan is set in 1926. What was happening around the world this month in 1926? Select one item from the 1926 timeline and write a one-page report on the event or person.

  6. List jobs that Tree does on the farm.

  7. Why is the knife so important to the boys?

  8. Would you say that Pete and Mike were bullies? Read some of the advice by Izzy Kalman for handling bullies. Create a story about a new boy in school in today’s world who has to deal with a bully.


More for the teacher

Links to other online guides for Jake’s Orphan.


Jake’s Orphan. Accelerated Reader: Quiz #42436 EN; Book Level 5.4; Points= 8.0