The best day of my life by Deborah Ellis
Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 97874237 914 2.
(Ages: 11+) Recommended. Leprosy. When Valli learns that her aunt and uncle are not her relatives but someone to whom money was paid to take her in, she decides to leave. Their life is dependent upon the town's coal mine, the children collecting pieces that have fallen along the roadside to make a pittance to give to the family for food. Hearing they are not related she climbs aboard one of the trucks leaving the town. In turn the driver finds her ad takes her to a place he knows where young girls are wanted, but when they wash her and realise that she cannot feel the burns on her feet, they toss her out and she must fend for herself. Valli has leprosy and Deborah Ellis is again at her knowledgable best in relating an engrossing story which also informs and educates.
Surviving on the streets in Kolkata means sleeping where she can, begging a few pence for food, and stealing or borrowing what she needs. A doctor meets her and seeing the state of her feet takes her to her hospital where she can receive treatment. But once Valli notices the others with stumpy fingers and pieces of their noses gone, she runs off. When she comes to a decision to accept the disease, she returns, finding that she can be cured.
At the end of the book is a sound glossary giving the readers the meanings of some of the Indian words used, and the author's note acquaints the readers with the facts of this disease, still much prevalent in poorer areas of the world where the germ can spread more easily because of overcrowding and poor diet. Ellis' work always brings a dignity to the children she talks about, whether they be in Pakistan, Bolivia or Afghanistan, and the story will ensure that the book is read and read again.