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Deborah Ellis says her books reflect "the heroism of people around the world who are struggling for decent lives, and how they try to remain kind in spite of it." She is best known for her Breadwinner Trilogy set in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- a series that has been published in 25 languages, with more than 1 million dollars in royalties donated to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International. She has won the Governor General's Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the University of California's Middle East Book Award, Sweden's Peter Pan Prize, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. She recently received the Ontario Library Association's President's Award for Exceptional Achievement, and she has been named to the Order of Ontario. She lives in Simcoe, Ontario.
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gr 3-6-Valli, about 10, lives in the poverty-stricken town of Jharia, India, where she is a coal picker. When she makes a shocking discovery about her family, she runs away and, after a series of harrowing events, reaches the bustling city of Kolkata. Valli survives on the street by stealing and begging. With no plan, no support system, and failing health, she begins to lose hope. While begging for change one day, she is befriended by a kind doctor who recognizes Valli's symptoms of leprosy. The child is terrified with this diagnosis as back home the village children had thrown stones at people with this disease, calling them "monsters." With the help of the doctor and other leprosy patients, Valli gets treatment and education, learns tolerance for people different from herself, and simultaneously realizes her own self-worth. Although many important lessons are presented in this even-paced, clearly written story, it is never heavy-handed or didactic. Valli is a well-developed, realistic, and engaging narrator. While American readers may not all relate to her ordeals, they will recognize common emotions for people their age. The story highlights not only the overcoming of adversity, but also the importance of education and literacy. It also brings to light the issue of leprosy, which is misunderstood. An important, inspiring tale.-Rita Meade, Brooklyn Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"We were trying to hit the demons and monsters who lived along the railway tracks. They weren't hard to hit. After all, they were big targets, bigger than us. But we couldn't get too close. 'They'll eat you if they catch you, ' my cousin said."
-- from the book
"The story highlights not only the overcoming of adversity, but also the importance of education and literacy. It also brings to light the issue of leprosy, which is misunderstood. An important, inspiring tale." -- School Library Journal, starred review