No Ordinary Day

by Deborah Ellis

Like the other children in her village,Valli has always been repulsed by the “monsters”—the... read more

Like the other children in her village,Valli has always been repulsed by the “monsters”—the people living over the tracks. “Some had no noses. Some had hands without fingers that they waved in the air as they tried to protect their heads from our rocks.” Valli lives with an affectionless aunt and uncle who expect her to contribute to the family income, usually by gathering coal. When she learns her family is not her family at all—her mother paid them to take her when she was very young—she runs away and ends up on the streets of Kolkata. There she meets a doctor who recognizes the numbness in Valli’s feet—she’s impervious to pain—as a sign of leprosy, the same disease the “monsters” in her village have. The doctor takes Valli to her clinic, and Valli glimpses possibility—she wonders if she, too, might study medicine some day. But she can’t abide the other leprosy patients and walks away from help. Eventually she returns, certain she wants a better future than life on the streets. Both Valli’s first-person voice and her story are compelling in Deborah Ellis’s eye-opening and accessible novel set in contemporary India. Valli is an appealing child whose ignorance can’t mask either her intelligence or the goodness waiting to be uncovered in her heart. By story’s end, Valli’s future seems to be a hopeful one. (Ages 9–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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