Meet Authors & Illustrators

Deborah Ellis

   Deborah Ellis was born in Cochrane, Ontario, and grew up in Paris, Ontario. The younger of two sisters, Deborah was a loner who preferred books and her own imagination for company. Somewhat at odds with a formal education, she became a political activist at the age of seventeen. After high school, she moved to Toronto and worked in the Peace Movement and the Women's Movement. Today Deborah works as a counselor in a psychiatric group home for women.

   Deborah gained recognition as a writer with her first novel for young adult readers. Looking for X was published in 1999, and it won the Governor General's Award.

   In 1997, Deborah had gone to Pakistan to help at an Afghan refugee camp. Out of this experience came the young adult novel, The Breadwinner, published in 2000. The story of Parvana - a young Afghan girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family - won both the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award and the Hackmatack Award. In 2002 Deborah published the highly acclaimed sequel, Parvana's Journey. The book won the prestigious Jane Addams Children's Book Award, sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Deborah donated the royalties for both Parvana's Journey and The Breadwinner to Women for Women in Afghanistan. The following year she completed what is now known as The Breadwinner Trilogy with Mud City. The trilogy won special commendation from the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. The royalties for Mud City go to Street Kids International.

   While researching another project, Deborah came across the phrase "company of fools." The discovery of the small group that entertained people dying from the Black Plague in 1348 Paris led Deborah to wonder what it would have been like to be a child during that time. Her answer to that question, A Company of Fools, was published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside in 2002. It was a finalist for three children's choice awards: the Silver Birch, the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice and the Rocky Mountain Book Award.

   Deborah travelled to Israel and the Ghaza Strip, and the result was a nonfiction book for young adults, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak, published in 2004.

   In the summer of 2003 Deborah travelled to Africa and visited Malawi and Tanzania to spend time with the children orphaned by AIDS and the people who care for them. While there, she met a young girl who played a character on a radio soap opera that dealt with social issues. That child became the inspiration for Binti Phiri, a fiercely independent girl who is determined to reunite with her siblings after their parents die of AIDS. The Heaven Shop puts a real face on the African AIDS pandemic, which to-date has orphaned more than eleven million children. Royalties from the sale of The Heaven Shop will go to UNICEF.

   Deborah says of the characters she creates, "Courage interests me - when we have it, when we don't, and how we make the decision to be brave or cowardly. We have created a world where most children live in some form of war, and I write about them to try to do honour to their strength and courage. I have learned that there is no such thing as 'other people's children.' The world's children are a blessing to all of us. They are also our responsibility."

   Her most recent book, Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About AIDS, was also inspired on her travels to Malawi and Tanzania. In this book you will meet orphans who nursed their dying parents and now care for younger siblings, children who work for every meal, who've been bounced from home to home, and children who live on the street. These children have all been touched by AIDS. Interspersed with facts about AIDS and quotes from authors and public figures, the book is about the power of the human spirit to endure and hope for a better tomorrow. In it's few short months on the shelves, Our Stories, Our Songs has received a starred review in both Booklist and School Library Journal and has been named SLJ best book for 2005, and Book Links Best New Book for the Classroom 2005.

   For more on Deborah Ellis, visit her website.

Contributor: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

 

Reviews

A Company of Fools
Deborah Ellis
   Henri, a choir student at the Abbey of St. Luc near Paris, is an orphan who has lived with nuns from the ages of one to four. At age five, he joined the monks in the Abbey. Henri's life was orderly and predictable until the arrival of another orphan, Micah. A kind-hearted monk rescues this young hoodlum from the streets of Paris. Rough and dirty, Micah is an odd addition to the group, but when he opens his mouth to sing a heavenly sound comes forth! Henri and Micah forge an odd relationship; Micah teaches Henri how to loosen up and have some fun and Henri tries to show Micah that the stability and regularity within the walls of the Abbey is a blessing compared to the evils lurking outside. Once the Black Death sweeps through their community the boys must learn to survive the difficult times together. Readers will enjoy a map detailing the grounds of the Abbey following the Prologue. An explanatory historical note is included at the end of the book addressing the Plague along with a map showing the dates of the Plague's arrival across Europe. A truly interesting read about two boys and their friendship in the mid-1300's France. 2002, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $15.95. Ages 9 to 12. Cindy L. Carolan (Children's Literature).
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Book of the Year for Children Award Honour Book 2003 Canada
   Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People Honour Book 2003 Canada
   Mr. Christie's Book Awards Silver Medal 2002 Ages 8-11 Canada
   Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award Short List 2003 Young Adult/Middle Reader Books Canada
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award, 2003-2004; Nominee; Manitoba, Canada
   Rocky Mountain Book Award, 2004; Nominee; Alberta, Canada
   Silver Birch Award, 2004; Nominee; Fiction; Ontario, Canada
   West Virginia Children's Book Award, 2004-2005; Nominee; West Virginia
ISBN: 1-55041-719-3

The Breadwinner
Deborah Ellis.
   Looking into a culture from the outside is a daunting task, difficult to accomplish without betraying the author's own conscious or unconscious sense of apprehension or wonder, curiosity or dismay. This is doubly challenging when the setting concerned is as complex and ridden with controversy as war-ravaged, internationally isolated Afghanistan. Eleven-year-old Parvana has the makings of a compelling protagonist, yet there are times when her world view seems more akin to that of her young American readers than to an Afghani girl's. The story moves along competently, the plot is tidily resolved, yet many questions present themselves. Where is Islamic practice in the lives of these people? No mosques, no calls to prayer, no religious observances? The shariah, Muslim law so severely interpreted and applied by the Taliban, isn't mentioned once, not even in the glossary. This reviewer sensed in the narration a self-consciousness about both subject and audience, that got in the way of what might have been a rich and textured tale. 2000, Groundwood Books, $15.95. Ages 8 to 12. Uma Krishnaswami (Children's Literature).

   Based on stories told by Afghan refugees in camps in Pakistan and Russia, The Breadwinner was written before most Americans had heard of the Taliban or knew where to put Afghanistan on a map. There is a map in the front of the book showing now-familiar cities like Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. Parvana is the 11-year-old daughter of well-educated, prosperous parents who have gradually been forced into living in near poverty in a single dark room. When her father is arrested because he was educated overseas, Parvana disguises herself as a boy to be able to go out and earn money for food. She yearns for her "normal, boring life" sitting in a classroom and eating food that someone else has worked for--an element that may generate discussion and appreciation among young American readers. There is danger, adventure and courage in Parvana's story, which depicts every horror we have heard about the Taliban and may make this story too harsh and graphic for some readers. In her job reading and writing letters for illiterate Afghanis, however, Parvana does meet one Talib who sheds a tear for his dead wife. "Could they have feelings of sorrow, like other human beings?" she wondered. Her mother is part of the Afghani underground, writing forbidden magazines, holding forbidden classes for girls, wishing her family had left Afghanistan when it was still possible to do so. The story is easily and quickly read and the writing is adequate; more significantly, Breadwinner opens a dramatic window on human frailty and strength during a frightful period in the history of a country that is now a household word in America. 2001, Groundwood Books, $15.95. Ages 10 to 16. Karen Leggett (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Amelia Bloomer Project, 2002; American Library Association-SRRT; United States Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2003; American Library Association YALSA; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Jane Addams Children's Book Award Special Commendation 2003 The Breadwiner Trilogy United States
   Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award Winner 2002 Manitoba, Canada
   Middle East Book Awards Winner 2002 Literature United States
   Red Cedar Book Awards Winner 2003 Fiction Canada
   Rocky Mountain Book Award Winner 2003 Alberta, Canada
   Society of School Librarians International Book Awards Honor 2001 Language Arts - K-6 Novels United States
   White Ravens Award Winner 2001 Canada International
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   The Golden Archer Award, 2003-2004; Nominee; Intermediate; Wisconsin
   Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, 2003; Nominee; English Fiction; Atlantic Canada
   Indian Paintbrush Book Award, 2003-2004; Nominee; Wyoming
   Maine Student Book Award, 2002-2003; Nominee; Maine
   Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award, 2002; Nominee; Manitoba, Canada
   Massachusetts Children's Book Award, 2003; Nominee; Massachusetts
   Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award, 2004-2005; Nominee; Grades 6-8; Pennsylvania
   Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 2004; Nominee; Illinois
   Red Cedar Book Awards, 2002-2003; Nominee; Fiction; British Columbia, Canada
   Rocky Mountain Book Award, 2003; Nominee; Alberta, Canada
   Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, 2003-2004; Nominee; Division I (Grades 3- 5); Minnesota
   Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, 2003-2004; Nominee; Division II (Grades 6-8); Minnesota
   Red Maple Award, 2001; Nominee; Ontario, Canada
ISBN: 0-88899-419-2

The Breadwinner
Deborah Ellis
Read by Rita Wolf
   Refugee Afghan women and girls told the activist author that some young girls disguised themselves as boys in order to feed their homebound families who suffered intensely under the Taliban regime. Read convincingly, this is the story of such a girl, Parvana, who bravely established a station on a Kabul street, read letters aloud to the unschooled, and sold the last of her family's goods. Then, poverty compelled her to join others in gathering human bones. Finally, she was able to become an assertive seller of small items throughout the area. The novel is labeled as appealing to middle school children, although it is not for very sensitive ones. The listener is not spared news of beatings, imprisonments, amputations and mass killing. High school students and even adults will learn much about another culture in war, although Islam itself is not discussed. An author note and glossary complete the tapes. (Editor's Note: The sequel, Parvana's Journey, is reviewed in hardcover in this issue.) Category: Fiction Audiobooks. KLIATT Codes: JSA*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002 (orig. 2000), Listening Library/Random House Audio, 2 tapes. 3 hours.; Cardboard; author, reader, plot notes., $18.00. Ages 12 to adult. Maureen K. Griffin (KLIATT Review, November 2002 (Vol. 36, No. 6)).
ISBN: 0-8072-0973-2

The Heaven Shop
Deborah Ellis
   The Heaven Shop sells coffins that will "take you swiftly to heaven." And coffins are much needed in Malawi, because AIDS is killing so many people. Binti is 13 years old when the story begins. She is successful on a radio show and she and her brother and sister are doing well in a private school. Binti's older sister June has cared for them for several years, since the death of their mother. Now the children's father is very ill and soon he dies of AIDS. The relatives are the first to gather and inform the children both parents died of AIDS, and therefore they too are tainted. The relatives take over all assets left to the children and force them to relocate, where the three work in terrible conditions for their relatives. June, the older sister, takes up prostitution as a way of earning money, and by the end of the story, she too is infected with H.I.V. Meanwhile, Binti leaves the cruel relatives and journeys to find her elderly grandmother who is living in abject poverty, trying to care for a group of little children whose parents are dead or dying from AIDS. Her brother ends up in prison for "stealing" food from his uncle, but fortunately friendly community workers help the three siblings reunite. Binti finally finds herself again after all the grief and hardship: life is still hard, but she finds purpose in caring for the little children and returning to school and being in plays once again. Also, the siblings make coffins and start up another Heaven Shop to earn enough money to feed themselves and the others in their now-extended family. Ellis has written before about children elsewhere in the world who are living extremely difficult lives. (She is the author of the Breadwinner trilogy set in Afghanistan, about children who are refugees in the war zone there.) She herself has traveled in Malawi and knows firsthand of the devastation caused by AIDS in that culture and the presence of millions of orphans whose parents have died of AIDS. So many teachers, doctors, nurses and other professionals have died that schools are closed and medical care is inadequate. By reading this gripping story, students will understand how the epidemic of AIDS in Africa has changed individuals and whole societies. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: J--Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 186p., $16.95. Ages 12 to 15. Claire Rosser (KLIATT Review, September 2004 (Vol. 38, No. 5)).
Best Books:
   Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Choices, 2005; Cooperative Children's Book Center
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Children's Africana Book Award Honor Book 2005 United States
   Jane Addams Children's Book Award Honor Book 2005 Books for Older Children United States
   Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Book Award Finalist 2005 Young Adult/Middle Reader Canada
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Book Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; Manitoba
   Red Maple Award, 2005; Nominee; Fiction; Ontario
   Rocky Mountain Book Award, 2006; Shortlist; Alberta
ISBN: 1-550-41908-0

Keeley: The Girl From Turtle Mountain
Deborah Ellis
Illustrated by Greg Banning
   "What good is understanding everything?" asks a character in The Girl from Turtle Mountain. "If we understood everything, we'd never get out of bed because there would be nothing to look forward to." This sentiment comes from one half of the lesbian couple who run the apiary that supplies honey to the town of Frank, in present-day Alberta. That they are lesbians is never explicitly stated: this is one of those things that you have to figure out when you get out of bed in the morning. Just like you have to figure out how the beautiful woman in the "tight purple corset," the one with all of the gentleman callers, can afford the high life. The Girl from Turtle Mountain, in addition to being clearly and cleanly written, is full of surprises. Who knew Canadian history could be so much fun? Or that one small Rocky Mountain mining town, circa 1901, could contain such a range of strong female characters, all making their own destiny in Canada's wild west. It is a wonderful world, one in which Keeley's gentle father writes the poetry of the mines and her fondly-remembered mother struggled to paint the beauty of the mountains and plains before her untimely death. Keeley herself is open-minded and adventurous, a nine-year old force of nature whose first feat upon arriving in Frank is to win a foot-race for boys, and whose second is to demand the ribbon even though she is not a boy ("But there wasn't a race for girls," she explains). Readers of The Girl from Turtle Mountain are more likely to learn to follow their dreams and take responsibility for their actions than to absorb much Canadian history, but what of that? All historical fiction and most history offers up myths for the present. Lesbian bee-keepers, kindly prostitutes and poet-papas are as worthy of commemoration as are imperialist land-grabs, plutocratic politicians and railway spikes. The Girl from Turtle Mountain is fine historical fiction. I look forward to Keeley: Book Two. You want girls to be interested in Canadian history? Give them this book. They might even find themselves interested in feminism, too. (Our Canadian Girl Series) Category: Fiction Grade 3-6. Thematic Links: Alberta - History; Mining; Single-Parent Families. Resource Links Rating: E (Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!), Gr. 3-6. 2004, Penguin Canada, 99p. Illus., Pbk. $8.99. Ages 8 to 12. Greg Bak (Resource Links, June 2004 (Vol. 9, No. 5)).
ISBN: 0-14-301484-6

Looking for X
Deborah Ellis
   Eleven-year-old Kyber lives in a poverty-ridden section of Toronto, a neighborhood frequented by social workers, skinheads, and the hungry and homeless people. Kyber is not her real name; it's the name she prefers over her given name, which she insists is "unspeakable." Because Kyber's mother is an ex-stripper and her two younger brothers are autistic, she is often tormented by her schoolmates. One of Kyber's consolations is her friendship with X, a homeless woman whom Kyber sometimes meets in the park and shares a sandwich with. X doesn't speak much--when she does speak it's likely to have something to do with the Secret Police that she fears are stalking her. Still, Kyber and X find comfort in each other. When Kyber's school is vandalized, suspicion falls upon Kyber. In order to clear her name, Kyber must locate X amidst the seamy underside of the Toronto streets. Related in a gritty realistic style, this novel does manage to convey a message of hope. 1999, Groundwood Books, $15.95. Ages 12 to 16. Christopher Moning (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2001; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Governor General's Literary Awards Winner 2000 Children's Literature (Text) Canada
   Governor General's Literary Awards Finalist 2000 Children's Literature (Illustration) Canada
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Rocky Mountain Book Award, 2002; Nominee; Alberta, Canada
   Silver Birch Award, 2001; Nominee; Fiction; Ontario, Canada
ISBN: 0-88899-378-1

Mud City
Deborah Ellis.
   As in the first two books in the Breadwinner trilogy, The Breadwinner (Groundwood, 2000/VOYA June 2001) and Parvana's Journey (2002/VOYA February 2003), this coming-of-age novel explores the survival challenges and moral choices that Afghan refugees present to themselves and the world. The story can easily stand alone. With meticulous attention to historical details, Ellis tells the compelling personal journey of Shauzia who, like her friend Parvana, masquerades as a boy to feed herself and her family. Leaving home to build an independent life, she arrives in a Pakistani displacement camp run by the dominating and socially conscious Mrs. Weera, who assigns her helping jobs. But Shauzia dreams about living in France and needs money. She opts for street life in Peshawar, Pakistan, with her dog as her companion. She lives in near starvation doing odd jobs, picking junk, and begging. Eventually she is arrested and robbed by the police. Americans who saw her begging rescue her. They welcome her into their home where she in turn admits beggars. The horrified family returns her to the refugee camp. She realizes her own people's dire needs in relation to the rest of the world's, begins to initiate needed services in the camp, and returns to Afghanistan with Mrs. Weera. Young female readers will identify with the strong spirit that produces Shauzia's independence and her eventual resolve to help the devastated. Social studies teachers have an invaluable tool here for discussing world issues, including the inevitable conflict between haves and have-nots. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 164p., $5.95 pb. Ages 11 to 15. Lucy Schall (VOYA, April 2004 (Vol. 27, No. 1)).
Best Books:
   Choices, 2004; Cooperative Children's Book Center; United States
   Great Middle School Reads, 2004; ALSC American Library Association; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award Winner 2005 English Fiction Atlantic Canada
   Jane Addams Children's Book Award Special Commendation 2003 The Breadwiner Trilogy United States
   Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award Shortlist 2004 Young Adult/Middle Reader Book Canada
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Lamplighter Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; United States
   West Virginia Children's Book Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; West Virginia
   Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, 2005; Nominee; English Fiction; Atlantic Canada
   Red Cedar Book Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; Fiction; British Columbia
ISBN: 0-88899-518-0

Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk about AIDS
Deborah Ellis
   "The statistics about children orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are overwhelming: 11.5 million cases and rising. Ellis brings the numbers close, relating the facts of poverty, child labor, sexual exploitation, and the signs and symptoms of the disease. But more than that, she tells the personal stories of young people whom she interviewed and photographed in Malawi and Zambia. She spoke to them in their homes, at clinics, schools, hospitals, counseling centers, and on the streets, in English and through interpreters. Short, simple sentences and small photographs capture a wide variety of individual experience. The authentic details speak of loss, fear, and grief: incredible kindness; and courage as well as hope for the future ("I would wear clean clothes every day and be paid every week"). The readable design includes informative boxed insets and quotes, side-by-side with each child's immediate experience. Readers older than the target audience will want this, too, for both the basic information and the heartrending stories." Reviewer: BOOKLIST/BOOKLINKS
Best Books:
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, November 2005; Cahners; United States Starred Review in Booklist/Booklinks
ISBN: 1-55041-913-7

Parvana's Journey
Deborah Ellis
   In this sequel to The Breadwinner, the intrepid Parvana buries her schoolteacher father. Then, disguised as a boy, she sets off to find her mother and siblings. In the stark environment of an Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban and at war, Parvana learns difficult lessons about life and about herself as she encounters a grieving woman who can only wail and weep, an abandoned baby Hassan whom she rescues and takes with her, an angry one-legged boy Asif, and a young girl, Leila, who scavenges a mine field for food and clothes for herself and her weak grandmother. Parvana and the three children create a "Green Valley" where they are secure and comfortable until the grandmother is killed and their peaceful valley destroyed by bombs. Then they travel again through hunger and despair to a refugee camp where Leila is killed as she races into a mine field for food dropped from planes. At the moment of Leila's death, Parvana hears her mother's voice ask, "What have we come to, that a girl can die without her mother?" Parvana blends her new brothers Hassan and Asif into her old family, but recognizes that "it's been a long journey and it's not over yet." This book addresses a difficult question--what happens to children during a war? Parvana's story makes her question her own values and contrasts her miserable situation with that of her best friend Shauzia, safe in Pakistan, or perhaps in Paris. 2002, Groundwood Books/Douglas & McIntyre, $15.95. Ages 10 to 14. Elisabeth Greenberg (Children's Literature).

   Deborah Ellis' 2000 book, The Breadwinner (Greenwood Books, $5.95; ages 10 and up) is an international bestseller which sold more than 125,000 copies. The heroine is Parvana, a thirteen-year-old Afghan whose father loses his leg and is taken to prison for no reason. Parvana must disguise herself as a boy and earn income for her needy family. She does so with a mix of willingness, excitement and fear. Parvana's willingness and fear continue in Parvana's Journey and her exhaustion and loss of hope mount. The sequel begins with the burial of her father and her search for her mother. Along the way she faces hunger, sickness, and collects a "family" of a starved baby, a crabby one-legged young boy, and an optimistic eight year old whom Parvana has rescued from disease and mine fields. This book, dedicated "to children we force to be braver than they should have to be," requires a brave reader as well. 2002, Groundwood, $15.95. Ages 10 up. Susie Wilde (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Best Books for Young Adults, 2003; American Library Association-YALSA; United States
   Children's Choices, 2003; International Reading Association; United States
   Choices, 2003; Cooperative Children's Book Center; United States
   Notable Books for a Global Society, 2003; International Reading Association; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, December 2002; Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Book of the Year for Children Award Nominee 2003 Canada
   Book of the Year for Children Award Honour Book 2003 Canada
   Governor General's Literary Awards Finalist 2002 Children's Literature (Text) Canada
   Jane Addams Children's Book Award Special Commendation 2003 The Breadwiner Trilogy United States
   Red Cedar Book Awards Winner 2005 Fiction British Columbia
   Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award Winner 2003 Young Adult/Middle Reader Books Canada
   Young Adult Canadian Book Award Nominee 2003 Canada
   Skipping Stones Honor Awards Winner 2003 Multicultural and International United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Garden State Teen Book Awards, 2005; Nominee; Fiction Grades 6-8; New Jersey
   Indian Paintbrush Book Award, 2004-2005; Nominee; Grades 4-6; Wyoming
   Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award, 2003-2004; Nominee; Manitoba, Canada
   Red Cedar Book Awards, 2004-2005; Nominee; Fiction; British Columbia, Canada
   Red Maple Award, 2004; Nominee; Ontario, Canada
   Rhode Island Teen Book Award, 2005; Nominee; Middle School; Rhode Island
   White Pine Award, 2003; Nominee; Ontario, Canada
ISBN: 0-88899-514-8
ISBN: 0-88899-519-9

Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak
Deborah Ellis
   The author who brought us riveting fiction from the Near and Middle East, like The Breadwinner and Parvana's Journey, now talks to real children, Palestinian and Israeli. Each chapter features a different child from pre-teen to 18; each chapter opens with a few paragraphs of history or explanation. At the beginning, there are six pages of single-spaced names: 429 children under the age of 18 who have died from September 2000 to March 2003. The names are the stark reality behind the statistic Ellis cites that 15% of all casualties were civilians in World War I; up to 50% in World War II; in 2004, 90% of casualties in war are civilians. The depth of anger and hatred in people so young is frightening, but there are also young people who realize "both sides have to give up a little. No one will win completely." The similarity of fears on all sides is striking. Fear becomes anger which becomes ugly in actions like suicide bombings, demeaning checkpoints and newly built walls. One Palestinian girl talks of watching Israeli soldiers demolish her home three times and each time, Israeli volunteers help to rebuild it. Children from both sides talk about how their mothers worry for their safety and the apparent arbitrariness of the killings by the other side. There is a wealth of very personal, readable material that will generate thought-provoking discussion and even allow readers to debate each other by taking on the persona of the young people in the book. The book includes a short bibliography and a list of organizations working to promote peace or help children traumatized by war. 2004, Groundwood Books, $16.95. Ages 10 up. Karen Leggett (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Choices, 2005; Cooperative Children's Book Center; United States
ISBN: 0-88899-645-4
ISBN: 0-88899-554-7

 

Updated June 2005

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