Deborah Ellis appearance at UWO’s Althouse.
I had the pleasure of hearing award-winning Canadian author Deborah Ellis speak at the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario last Tuesday. I’m a huge admirer of her work, especially her non-fiction titles which address the plight of young people affected by poverty and war in developing countries.
Appropriately, Ellis’ talk coincided with Freedom to Read Week in Canada. My first introduction to Ellis came a few years ago when controversy erupted over her book, Three Wishes, in Ontario schools. In Three Wishes, Ellis explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through interviews with children from both sides. Concerns were raised by the Canadian Jewish Congress, who argued that the book’s lacked historical and political context and was unsuitable for younger children. The CJC requested that access be restricted to children in Grade 7 and up. After reading Ellis’ response to controversy, I knew I had to read the book:
“Kids can handle the truth about what is being done to other children. It’s adults who get squeamish. They say, ‘We must protect our children from such things,’ when really they are protecting themselves from having to answer the question: ‘What are you doing to make the world better?” ~ Deborah Ellis
Ellis spoke about her time spent in Afghanistan interviewing girls and women living in refugee camps. This experience inspired her popular and award-winning Breadwinner triology. She also shared personal anecdotes about her experience meeting with children living on military bases in the United States and Canada, which formed the basis of her most recent book, Off to War: Voices of Soldiers’ Children.
I was amazed to learn that Ellis generously donates the royalties earned from her books to organizations such as Women for Women in Afghanistan and IBBY’s Children in Crisis Fund. She’s a wonderful writer, an even more wonderful humanitarian, and deserves much praise for giving a voice to children around the world.
More about Deborah Ellis:
- Open Book Toronto interview with Deborah Ellis (2009)
- Papertigers interviews Deborah Ellis (2008)
- Quill and Quire profile on Deborah Ellis (2004)
- CM profile on Deborah Ellis (2003)