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. The only sight that fills her with terror is the monsters who live on the other side of the train tracks - the lepers. When Valli discovers that her 'aunt' is a stranger who was paid money to take Valli off her own family's 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 doesn't need much to live and is very resourceful. But a chance encounter with a doctor reveals that she has leprosy. Unable to bear the thought that she is one of the monsters she has always feared, Valli rejects help and begins an uncertain life on the street.
Internationally acclaimed author, humanitarian and peace activist, Deborah Ellis has travelled the world to meet with and hear the stories of children affected by poverty, war, racism and illness. Her fiction and non-fiction books give us a glimpse into the lives of children from Afghanistan (The Parvana Trilogy), Bolivia (Diego! Run; Diego's Pride), the Middle East (Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak) and Southern Africa (The Heaven Shop).
Deborah's recent book, Off to War: Soldiers' Children Speak is a collection of interviews with children of Canadian and American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her companion book Children of War: Iraqi Children Speak interviews Iraqi children about how the war and displacement have shaped their lives. Royalties from both books have been donated to the Children in Crisis Fund of IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People.
The Best Day Of My Life
Allen and Unwin
Author: Deborah Ellis
Question: Can you talk about what inspired you to write, The Best Day Of My Life?
Deborah Ellis: I wanted to write about leprosy to support the work of those folks who are treating and curing people with the disease, and I wanted to support the folks who are currently dealing with the disease. I've always been interested in the life of the outsider, and leprosy is an illness that has forced many people to be outsiders simply because those around them are not informed about what they are dealing with. I hope The Best Day of My Life will go a small way toward clearing up misconceptions about the disease, and helping folks to see that people with leprosy are just people.
Question: Can you talk about the research that went into The Best Day Of My Life?
Deborah Ellis: To do the research I spent time in West Bengal in India, mostly in Kolkate and in the villages around the city. It's a beautiful, fascinating place with a rich history and an exciting future. I was able to hang out at the Leprosy Mission hospital and meet people in the community doing human rights work and other amazing things.
Question: Can you share with us details of your next book?
Deborah Ellis: The book coming out in Canada this spring and is a book of interviews I did with children in Kabul last winter, looking at how their lives have changed - and not changed - since the fall of the Taliban. The book I'm working on now is a book of interviews with Native American, Metis and Inuit kids from around North America.
Interview by Brooke Hunter