by Deborah Ellis, 155 pages, Grade 5-7
The day Valli leaves her miserable coal mining village and sets off on an adventure is no ordinary day; it is her happiest day so far. Valli is a clever survivor; she ends up in Kolkata, India and lives alone on the streets borrowing and begging to fill her belly, and sleeping in the cemetery when she can sneak by the guards. Life is hard, but she is stubbornly optimistic. Valli approaches strangers to ask for food, dives to the bottom of the river to collect change; she has a gift for getting what she requires and when she is finished with something she makes sure to give it to someone else in need.
One day she meets a lady doctor whom she is sure will give her a few rupees (Indian money), but while they are talking Valli steps on some burning coals. The doctor is alarmed, but Valli doesn’t feel a thing; she tells the doctor that she has magic feet, nothing can hurt her.
Leprosy is one of the most feared and misunderstood diseases probably because of the way it disfigures its victims. Even today people with the disease are considered outcasts of their societies. In reality, leprosy is hard to get, and, in fact, can be cured if diagnosed and treated. Unfortunately, often those who contract it are not in a position to get assistance.
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If you enjoy reading about social situations much different from our lucky circumstances here in Piedmont, then you might also enjoy The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis, Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan, or Now is the Time for Running, by Michael Williams.