No Ordinary Day

Deborah Ellis. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $16.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-55498-134-2
Ellis (the Breadwinner trilogy) again brings an individual humanity to newspaper headlines. Giving voice to an orphan girl living on the streets of Calcutta unaware of her leprosy, Ellis turns a potentially unpalatable subject into a fresh and compelling story that focuses on Valli's spirited personality and sly cleverness. Valli runs away from her poverty-stricken home in the coal town of Jharia, India, when she learns that she is not a true member of the family she lives with. In Calcutta, she learns to survive by "borrowing" what she needs, be it blankets, money, or food. Quick, intelligent, and fearless, Valli is content living day to day until she meets a doctor who takes her for treatment to the hospital, where she finds herself among the "monsters" she feared most in Jharia—leprosy-stricken, disfigured people. Refusing to acknowledge she is one of them, she escapes back to the streets, until she finally understands she has the potential to lead a better life. Ellis's straightforward language and uncompromising depictions of Valli's unimaginably harsh and gritty world combine with believable character development to create a strong and accessible novel. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
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