Canadian author Deborah Ellis has harnessed the power of words to create miraculous results: her multi-award-winning Breadwinner Trilogy (The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, and Mud City) has raised over a million dollars in royalties for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kid International. With her latest title, Ellis tackles leprosy, this time sending all her royalties to The Leprosy Mission Canada. In case you had any doubt, beyond her many good deeds, Ellis also writes really good books.
For independent Valli, the “best day” of her young life happens to be the day she leaves her home village of Jharia, India. What kept her there for her first nine or 10 years – she’s not quite sure how old she is – was what she thought was her family: “You stayed with your family because they were your family and families were supposed to stick together and care for each other.” But when Valli learns that her ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ were merely paid to take her in as a baby, she grabs her chance to escape an inevitable future – back-breaking work in the coal mines, too-large families, abusive and alcoholic husbands – that most of the village women are doomed to live. Hidden in the back of a coal truck, she drives off toward the unknown.
Valli arrives in Kolkata and narrowly escapes a life in a brothel. For awhile, she’s content to wander the streets, finding ways to “borrow” what she needs, enjoying an adventure here and there – diving for coins in the river, sleeping in cemeteries, escaping frustrated guards. Her bare feet that magically feel no pain in spite what should be debilitating injuries, keep her moving swiftly. But when she sees her future once more – city-style, this time – in the face of a begging woman with a thinly wailing baby, she realizes that she needs to find the kind doctor who tried to help her once before, even if it means facing the “monsters” in the hospital.
Once again, Ellis writes a poignant, penetrating story about the difficult challenges of being a girl in the developing world. If the Breadwinner Trilogy is any indication of No Ordinary Day‘s potential success, then sharing Valli’s story to benefit the Leprosy Mission will surely provide the real-life Vallis the much-needed chance to choose healthier, safer, more fulfilling lives.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult