Sit, but don't get too comfortable. All too often, the children in this collection of stories by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood, 2017) find themselves in difficult situations. While Jafar works in a factory instead of going to school, Gretchen wonders what her family would have done during World War II, and Mike survives 72 days in solitary confinement. Circumstances for seven other children range from life-threatening to heartbreaking, usually both. And while each child proves to be resilient and resourceful, reading about them isn't easy. Important, even essential, but not easy.
I connected most with the story of Miyuki, "The Glowing Chair," perhaps because it offers one of the most redemptive endings. It begins with Miyuki sitting on a tatami mat at the evacuation center where she, her father and brother are staying after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster; her mother has been missing since the tsunami swallowed up the veterinary clinic where she worked. Ellis economically conveys the tensions that exist between the members of Miyuki's family (including their donkey Hisu, left behind in the danger zone) as well as the bonds that remain after the events of March 2011. Miyuki's decision to rescue Hisu takes her into the danger zone, where she makes peace with the loss of her mother and discovers who she is meant to be.
As I was writing this post, I heard the sad news that Sheila Barry, publisher of Groundwood books, died last night. My sincere condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues at Groundwood. I know she will be missed.