Monday, January 23, 2012

No Ordinary Day by Deborah Ellis

Valli spends her days picking up coal in her home town of Jharia, India. It is a dirty and dangerous job and she would much rather be in school learning to read. On the other side of the train tracks she sees the "monsters"—a community of people with leprosy who are feared and abused by the coal-picking children. When Valli discovers that the people she lives with are not actually her biological family, she hops on a coal truck and escapes to Kolkata where she is homeless but surviving day-to-day. In a chance encounter with a doctor she discovers that she herself has leprosy and she must decide whether to accept help or remain on the run. This slim book paints a picture of the life of the poor in India that is not often found in children's books. Intermediate and middle school children could learn a lot from Valli's story and it would make a good introduction into a discussion of poverty, human rights, and global issues.

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