Betti Napiwocki's Reviews > No Ordinary Day

No Ordinary Day by Deborah Ellis
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Mar 16, 12

bookshelves: middle-eastern-lit
Read in January, 2012

This week I read two Deborah Ellis titles in preparation for the Global Fair. I began with "No Ordinary Day" and quite honestly had a hard time getting through the first chapter because I couldn't quite find the rhythm of the story, and because the imagery was so disturbing to me. This feeling of unease soon passed as I continued on and finished this book in one sitting. I was so moved by the strength, courage, and ingenuity of the main character, Valli, as she made her way through life in India, and I realized that the disturbing imagery was only an aide for me to appreciate the story.

"No Ordinary Day" is about a 10 year old girl named Valli who discovers she has no family, and that the family she has been living with was paid to take her in after her mother died. The family is very poor and treats her badly. The people in her village work in the coal mines - adults and children alike - and she spends her days walking barefoot through the village collecting coal. She believes she has magic feet because she feels no pain in them, when in reality she has leprosy. Valli fleas her village and ends up in Kolkata, living on the streets. Valli uses her guile and courage to survive each day. She meets an old man and his goat one day and is given wisdom which she follows each day: find someone who needs what you have more than you, and give them what you have. This simple kindness is a lesson for the reader and Valli throughout the book. One day, Valli meets a doctor who offers to heal her feet if she will stay in the hospital with her, and after a time, Valli accepts the offer and is healed.

Ellis brought leprosy to my attention through this book. As I was reading, I kept thinking "the setting must be years ago, not current", and it wasn't until Valli was in the hospital and another patient was on her cellphone that I realized the setting was now. Knowing that made this book all the more powerful. Ellis also broke the stigma of "who" gets leprosy, as Valli comes to learn the background of her fellow patients in the hospital. This book speaks to global awareness through its discussion of where the money for the hospital in Kolkata comes from - from people worlds away wanting to fight this curable disease.

Leprosy was definitely a strong point of awareness in this book, but also the poverty and street life that seems so abundant in this part of India. Valli was alone in the world without family, however, she was not alone on the streets. The streets were full of people without homes, food, or money.

I think that many of us in forget that conditions such as illness and poverty aren't going away in many parts of the world. This book reminds us that the life outside our windows is not that of people around the globe. Reading a book such as this brings awareness to the forefront and hopefully promotes action among its readers.
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message 1: by Nashwa (new) - added it

Nashwa M. Debra Ellis is an amazing author. She has the rare gift of baring a culture’s struggles and strifes to the world’s surface. I enjoy her books tremendously.

I also read No Ordinary Day. Ellis creates such strong imagery in her writing that you are able to visualize the extreme level of poverty and deprivation lived out in this impoverished region of India. Even though it is a quick read, I think No Ordinary Day is really most appropriate for students beginning with sixth grade and up. Be prepared for eye opening discussions about such issues as child abuse, poverty, homelessness, and Leprosy. Well analyzed Betti and a great recommendation.


Donna I'm currently reading this book (your review did not spoil it for me LOL). It already had brought some things back home for me. For instance, I thought that leprosy had vanished from the disease landscape. When I hear the word leprosy, I immediately think of the biblical times when it was as common as cancer is today. But apparently not. Also, her feet have no feeling but she is OK with that. I haven't finished the book yet. But here's my thought: It was well done. I have always looked at the commercials and ad's for the Children's Relief fund where they solicit donations. I have always thought that they picked the worst looking child that they could find. But after getting half-way through this book, I know that this is not something made-up. It is a real problem involving real innocent children. Thanks for this great review!


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