A very moving book that will introduce young readers to homelessness, leprosy, and . . . child prostitution. There’s nothing graphic here, but children will ask what is happening and you might want to be prepared with how you will answer.
Although this is an easy book from a reading-level perspective, it is a hard one emotionally. The main character is a pre-adolescent girl who runs away upon learning that the not-very-nice family she lives with isn’t really her family. (So, why stay?) She stows away on a truck traveling towards Kolkata and meets people kind and horrible, as well as becoming both kind and horrible herself.
p.119: “They were right, I thought. Books were not for me. I probably didn’t even look like everybody else inside. Under my skin, there was probably just more dirt.”
p. 153 “I wasn’t sure what she was doing. I wasn’t afraid, because I knew she wouldn’t hurt me, but the hug was strange. I had never had one before.”
(As with other publications, I wonder what the book designers were thinking when the put an illustration of such a young child on the cover. Yes, Valli is young, but I wouldn’t give this book to anyone under 10. The cover will make it appeal to an audience that isn’t likely ready for it.)
Kudos to Deborah Ellis for, once again, tackling very hard but important subjects.