Synopses & Reviews
Deborah Ellis, author of The Breadwinner
, brings us a feisty young heroine, Valli an orphan who lives on the streets of Kolkata, unaware that she has leprosy.
Theres not much that upsets young Valli. Even though her days are spent picking up pieces of coal and fighting with her cousins, life in the coal town of Jharia, India, is the only life she knows. The only thing that fills her with terror is the sight of the monsters who live on the other side of the train tracks they have a disease called leprosy, which makes Valli and the other children afraid, so they throw stones at them. No matter how hard her life is, she tells herself, at least she will never be one of them.
Then she discovers that she is not living with family after all, that her aunt” was a stranger who was paid money to take Valli off her own familys hands. So she decides to leave Jharia . . . and so begins a series of adventures that takes her to Kolkata, the city of the gods.
Its not so bad. Valli finds that she really doesnt need much to live. She can borrow” the things she needs and then pass them on to people who need them more than she does. It helps that though her bare feet become raw wounds as she makes her way around the city, she somehow feels no pain.
But when she happens to meet a doctor on the ghats by the river, Valli learns that she has leprosy. Despite being given a chance to receive medical care, she cannot bear the thought that she is one of those monsters she has always feared, and she flees, to an uncertain life on the street.
"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
Even though Valli spends her days picking coal and fighting with her cousins, life in the coal town of Jharia, India, is the only life she knows. Shes filled with terror when she glimpses the monsters living on the other side of the train tracks — the lepers. When Valli discovers that her “aunt” is a stranger who was paid to take Valli off her familys hands, she leaves Jharia and begins a series of adventures that takes her to Kolkata, the city of the gods. Valli finds that she really doesnt need much to live and is very resourceful. But when a chance encounter with a doctor reveals that she has leprosy will Valli be able to face life as one of the monsters she has always feared, or flee to an uncertain life on the street?
About the Author
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.