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No Ordinary Day

by Deborah Ellis

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1137179,916 (3.95)None
Valli has always been afraid of the lepers living on the other side of the train tracks in the coal town of Jharia, India, so when a chance encounter with a doctor reveals she also has leprosy, Valli rejects help and begins an uncertain life on the streets.



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Nice story. Inoffensive. But ultimately not the best of Ellis. The main character is not memorable enough. ( )
  mmacd3814 | May 30, 2016 |
Deborah Ellis is always engaging and insightful - this book didn't disappoint! ( )
  keindi | Jan 23, 2016 |
Recommended Ages: Gr. 6-8

Plot Summary: Valli is living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. All day she goes out and gathers the coal laying around their small town. Her boy cousins taunt her and beat her up. She tries stealing their coal and they bring her across the train tracks to the "monsters." She is petrified and returns without her coal bag. Elamma gives her an ultimatum: either get the bag or don't come home. One of the monsters returns the bag to her, neatly folded, but Elamma shares that they are not actually family. Stunned, Valli finds her aunt at work and confirms this fact. Her grandparents paid the family to take her in. Thinking that they were family was the only reason why she stuck around. She hates her cousins, her uncle is always drunk, and she hates coal. She makes a spur of the moment decision to hop into the coal truck and let it lead her out of her town for the first time ever. She loves seeing the views from the truck and takes it pretty far until the drivers find her. After considering killing her and leaving her by the side of the road, they decide to bring her to Mrs. Mukerjee. Reluctantly, Mrs. Mukerjee comes to the door and accepts the offer, telling the drivers to come back later to see how much she is worth in trade. Valli is led to a locked shed on the rooftop, given food which someone else has paid for, and sleep. When she is awoken, she gets a good scrub. The girls who scrub her report the white spots on her skin to Mrs. Mukerjee, who immediately freaks out, claims Valli has the curse, and sends Valli out. Valli takes the soaps, the first she has used that smell so nice, and ends up on the street. A homeless poet discusses Valli's options and lets Valli know she should share what she has. Valli passes on the soap to a family and survives on the streets for an undetermined amount of time. She sleeps in cemeteries, knows who to ask for tea, knows enough to get money from tourists, and survives. She starts each day with a little bit of fun, teasing the security guards who chase her out. She feels like she can make people do what she wants, for example leave the table with the food still on it or look the other way. She steals coins from a girl and jumps into the river to look for more, sticking the coins in her mouth. She swims for a while towards the burning ghats where the cremate the dead, and swims in the water with the ashes looking for more coins. When she comes out near the bodies she spots a woman reading a bible and starts chatting with her with the few Bible verses she knows, hoping to get money. The woman is interested in why Valli's feet don't hurt, and gets Valli to go with her to get them checked out. Valli doesn't trust her at first, but Dr. Indra does everything right, giving Valli the choice and the freedom to leave at any time if necessary. They go to the hopsital where Valli is well fed, gets cleaned, and gets bandages on her feet. When she is put into a room with monsters, she runs away. No she is more sour and rude to the other homeless. She is mean spirited instead of teasing. She wants to be like the doctor because she was fascinated by hearing her heartbeat for the first time but doesn't know. When she finally sees her reflection as she is kicked out of a mall when trying to look at a biology book, she realizes she should try to go back to the hospital. She goes back into her room and yells at the person in her bed. Dr. Indra takes her in and explains what it means to be treated. Dr. Indra and her roommates become Valli's friends.

Setting: Jharia to Kolkata

Valli - doesn't know how old she is, stays positive for a while in the book but then becomes negative and doesn't like herself when she is mean to the other homeless girls, knows a bit of English because she tried to go to school in Jharia until Elamma found her and made her leave, can read and write a little bit, knows the numbers from 0-100
Elamma - Valli's cousin, the oldest, isn't allowed to go to school because she has to take care of the rest of the kids, sour and mean to Valli
Mrs. Mukerjee - head of the brothel, willing to take in Valli because she doesn't have parents, disgusted when she sees the white spots on her skin and sends her away as fast as possible, wants to take a bath as soon as she is gone
Dr. Indra - generous kind patient who knows exactly how to treat Valli in terms of gaining her trust, willing to answer all of Valli's questions
Mrs. Das - in Valli's bed at the hospital, cranky
Lexmi - shares a room in the hospital with Valli, burned badly on her body as an act of abuse for a dowry
Neeta - business person who shares a room with Valli in the hospital, teaches Valli about pie charts and recognizes her intelligence

Recurring Themes: charity, borrowing, leprosy, poverty, family, homelessness, alcoholism, abuse, bollywood, bible, bilingual, literacy, dreams, doctors, fear

Controversial Issues:
Uncle is always drunk and beating them up
pg 15 "And then, in the night [my uncle's] voice quiet and his breath in my ear, telling me to make no noise or the monsters would grab me in my sleep, drag me away and tear me apart. And I would tremle and bite my lip and pray to the gods for the sun to rise."
ch 3 Raj and Kam bring Valli to Mrs. Mukerjee. It seems like she owns a brothel but it is never mentioned other than the girls work there, they aren't awake yet. "How about we take it out in...trade..I could use a bit of that right now...I told you, my girls aren't up yet." "You'll waer nice clothes and lie around all day. Maybe do a few little housefold chores, but you won't mind doing your share of those, will you?"

Personal Thoughts: This was a well-written book. I thought the characters were well developed and there was a good mix of character development and action.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Pacing: Medium - it's a short book, some of it is the characters thoughts but there is also some action
Characters: not too many, well developed
Frame: Leprosy is explained and there is also an author's note in the back to explain it

Activity: good deeds, pg 56 "find someone who needs it more than you"

Quotes: "Nobody really owns anything. We give back our bodies at the end of our lives. We own our thoughts, but everything else is just borrowed. We use it for a while, then pass it on. Everything. We borrow the sun that shines on us today from the people on the other side of the world while they borrow the moon from us. Then we give it back. We can't keep the sun, no matter how afraid we are of the dark. We borrow our food. What we eat becomes fertilizer that goes back into the earth and gets turned back into food. Everything is borrowed. Once I realized that, I stopped worrying about how I would survive. I didn't need to have anything. I just needed to borrow."

Great first line: "The best day of my life was the day I found out I was all alone in the world." ( )
  pigeonlover | Dec 28, 2013 |
I could relate to the frustrating feelings of the main character. It led the readers into the situations, and made it engaging. I personally enjoyed this book and recommend it to other teenagers of similar age. ( )
  Sumin | Aug 19, 2013 |
No ordinary novel! A heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful story thanks to compassionate strangers, and an insightful look at the most impoverished life imaginable from the POV of a young girl. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Valli has always been afraid of the lepers living on the other side of the train tracks in the coal town of Jharia, India, so when a chance encounter with a doctor reveals she also has leprosy, Valli rejects help and begins an uncertain life on the streets.

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