Looks Like Daylight

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

We’ve reached National Aboriginal Day! Here at Groundwood, we feel the perfect way to celebrate is by hearing from Indigenous kids themselves. Author and activist Deborah Ellis travelled across the continent, interviewing and gathering stories that we’ve included here. Plus, all royalties from the sale of Looks Like Daylight go to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.


Looks like DaylightI go to a Sun Dance. They have this circle. On the first day, you feast and dance. On the second day, you do a fruit and vegetable feast — that’s all — and you dance. The third day is a fast. On the fourth day, we dance until noon. Then we take the circle apart and take down the tree of life and take down our tents. Then we eat. It makes me feel good because this year I actually completed it. On the second day it was really hard. The weather was hot and I felt like quitting. But I found the strength to keep going and I completed it. I like who I am and where I’m from. It’s special.
— Tyrone, 13

Looks Like DaylightEven white people who know I’m Native can sometimes act like jerks. They’ll say, “Heading home to your teepee?” or go “Woo-woo-woo-woo!” and pound their hands to their lips, doing some lame Hollywood version of a war dance. Others ask me questions and they’re respectful. You can tell when people really want to know something in order to get to know you better. But some questions go too far. Like, because I’m Ojibwe they think I was born on some sort of different spiritual plane or something.
— Brittany, l7

Looks Like DaylightMy chenai [grandfather] and my nana and others ran away from the residential school they were put into. Some of the older generation, like my great-grandparents, looked at the residential school as a good thing, but the schools weren’t as bad for their generation. For my nana and chenai it was a whole lot of abuse. They were treated really badly.
My mother says there is no way to make up for the crimes of the past. There’s only forward.
— Cohen, 14
 

Looks Like DaylightI live just over the hill from where the Wounded Knee massacre took place, over by Wounded Knee Creek. For white kids it’s just something in a history book. For me it’s my family. It’s my ground that they bled on. It’s personal.
— Destiny, 15
 
 
 
 


Looks Like Daylight by Deborah EllisAbout Looks Like Daylight
After her critically acclaimed books of interviews with Afghan, Iraqi, Israeli and Palestinian children, Deborah Ellis turns her attention closer to home. For two years she traveled across the United States and Canada interviewing Native children. The result is a compelling collection of interviews with children aged nine to eighteen. They come from all over the continent, from Iqaluit to Texas, Haida Gwaai to North Carolina, and their stories run the gamut — some heartbreaking; many others full of pride and hope.

You’ll meet Tingo, who has spent most of his young life living in foster homes and motels, and is now thriving after becoming involved with a Native Friendship Center; Myleka and Tulane, young artists in Utah; Eagleson, who started drinking at age twelve but now continues his family tradition working as a carver in Seattle; Nena, whose Seminole ancestors remained behind in Florida during the Indian Removals, and who is heading to New Mexico as winner of her local science fair; Isabella, who defines herself more as Native than American; Destiny, with a family history of alcoholism and suicide, who is now a writer and powwow dancer.

Many of these children are living with the legacy of the residential schools; many have lived through the cycle of foster care. Many others have found something in their roots that sustains them, have found their place in the arts, the sciences, athletics. Like all kids, they want to find something that engages them; something they love.

Deborah briefly introduces each child and then steps back, letting the kids speak directly to the reader, talking about their daily lives, about the things that interest them, and about how being Native has affected who they are and how they see the world.

As one reviewer has pointed out, Deborah Ellis gives children a voice that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to express so readily in the mainstream media. The voices in this book are as frank and varied as the children themselves.

The Breadwinner Cartoon Adaptation Releases New Artwork

We are so excited that the cartoon adaptation of The Breadwinner has gone to production! What better way to celebrate than taking a look at some of the newly released artwork from the film. Thanks to Cartoon Saloon for these fantastic images.

The Breakwinner Adaptation Artwork

The Breakwinner Adaptation Artwork

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The Breakwinner Adaptation Artwork

The Breakwinner Adaptation Artwork


The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

The first book in Deborah Ellis’s riveting Breadwinner series is an award-winning novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.

Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Parvana’s father — a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed — works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.

Enter to win Groundwood Favourites!

Groundwood Favorites Giveaway

We won!

In celebration of being named Best Children’s Publisher of the Year in North America by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, we’re giving away three of our favourite Groundwood titles:

  1. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
  2. Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith
  3. Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay

The contest runs from April 6th to April 20th. A winner will be randomly chosen. Fill out the form below to enter!

Win a complete 15th Anniversary The Breadwinner set!

The Breadwinner Series by Deborah Ellis is a story about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. Since the original release of The Breadwinner in the year 2000, the series has been published in twenty-five languages and has earned more than $1 million in royalties to benefit Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International.

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On the 15th Anniversary of the Publication of The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis Reflects on War

9781554987658It’s been thirty-six years since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. It’s been twenty-six years since their departure marked the start of the bloody civil war. It’s been nineteen years since the capture of Kabul by the Taliban army, and fourteen years since that terrible day in September that unleashed events leading to the Taliban’s removal from power.

That’s an awful lot of war for a country that’s barely the size of Texas.

My involvement with Afghanistan began when the news of the crimes of the Taliban hit the Toronto newspapers back in l996. Since then, I have been trying to understand what war does to people.

War is made by people living in safety who make the decision to take risks with the lives of others whose opinions on the matter are not even solicited. War is made by those who profit from the manufacturing of weaponry. War is made by people who are too lazy to put the creative work and compassion into coming up with a solution to their problems that does not involve murder.

I’ve seen the way bombs and bullets shatter human bodies and devastate families. I’ve learned what happens when the destruction of infrastructure leads to bad water, food shortages and the lack of medical care. And I’ve learned from refugees about how their lives have been derailed and reduced to Waiting — for food, for shelter, for documents, for peace.

Through all the tales of crime and chaos, there have been heroes — giants of courage — who, in big ways and small, put human decency above all else.

I’ve met teachers around the world who carve out little niches of safety and childhood for kids in need. I’ve met librarians who remind us that human beings are capable of creating things noble and sublime. I’ve met builders and farmers, health workers and home workers who go through incredible difficulties just to make the next day, the next hour a little bit better for those around them. I’ve met parents of dead children who take in children of dead parents, raising them with love and care.

And I’ve met children who cast aside the hatreds of the older generation and work toward building a world of radical kindness and beauty.

In today’s warfare, ninety-five percent of the casualties are civilians. This means that when we give our governments permission to go to war, we are giving them permission to kill people who are just like us — who complain about the weather, love their children and wonder what to have for dinner. People who have done us no harm.

Books can help us remember what we have in common as humans.

That’s what I try to do with mine.

Deborah Ellis
2015


The Breadwinner is an award-winning novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. Since the original publication of The Breadwinner in 2000, the series has been published in twenty-five languages and earned more than $1 million in royalties to benefit Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International.

No Safe Place

9780888999733This past weekend, hundreds of migrants (including an estimated 60 adolescent boys) died off Italy’s coast. Save the Children estimates that 2,500 more children could drown in the Mediterranean in 2015 if the European Union doesn’t restart search and rescue operations. In the face of human suffering on such a scale, and remembering that every day, all over the world, thousands of children are driven from their homes by poverty and war, it’s hard to know if there is any point in reading books.

But then I think of Deborah Ellis, who has made it her life’s work to tell the stories of children who are displaced, abused and killed because of the action — and inaction — of adults. In her novel No Safe Place, she tells the story of one boy’s lonely and dangerous journey from Iraq to England in search of security. The book isn’t easy reading. But then, why should it be? How could it be?

— Sheila Barry, Publisher

Download a sample of No Safe Place

Deborah Ellis AMA Round-up

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On Friday, September 19th, Deborah Ellis hosted a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session. We want to thank everyone who participated for the wonderful, thought-provoking and even controversial questions centered around feminism, ideology and Deborah’s fantastic novels. For those of you who missed it, we’ve rounded up some key questions from the discussion:

Q.  In your opinion what’s the most progressive welcoming, women equal country based on opportunity and general equality?

A. I’ve heard that Iceland is very good. Women all over the world have talents to bring forward, and the more chances they get, the better their countries become.

Q. I teach The Breadwinner series to my 8th graders, and fell in love with your book Kids of Kabul last year as a read aloud. That book really showed my students how lucky they are just because of where they are from, and that they can do so much to help other kids in this world. What is the biggest thing you have taken away from your experiences with children in Afghanistan? Do you believe that there is hope to return the country to the way is was 60 years ago?

A. There is always hope. If we get off the backs of the young Afghan people by ceasing military interventions and give them the resources they need to rebuild their country.

Q. What does feminism mean to you?

A. Opportunities for women and for everyone to live the life that they want to live.

Q. When writing The Cat at the Wall, did you travel to the West Bank to talk with people about their experiences?

A. Yes, I traveled to many places in the West Bank including Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah. I met with young people of all ages in different circumstances. They told me about dealing with the Israeli military and wishing they could make friends with Israeli kids.

Q. Do you have a specific process that you follow for writing a novel?

A. I usually start with a question that I want to answer. What if something happens? Then I try to answer it. For example, what would is it like for children growing up under the Taliban? I wanted to try to understand that, so that’s why I wrote The Breadwinner.

Q. Any movie or book in the world, which one do you wish that you’d written?

A. wish I had written From Anna by Jean Little. It’s a book about a family escaping WWII, but it’s also the story of a little girl trying to figure out who she is. It’s written with simplicity and dignity.

Q. Deborah…you have gifted readers with your amazing insightful stories. The latest one that I have recommended and sold is Moon at Nine. What inspired you as a writer to record the real stories of young people seeking some kind of justice to their predicaments?

A. The book Moon at Nine is about two teenage girls who fall in love in 1988 Iran. It’s based on a true story. I met the woman whose story it was, and she asked me to write it for her because she still has family back in Iran. She couldn’t write it herself because it would put them in danger. I’m drawn to stories of courage because they inspire us to have courage in our own lives.

Q. You seem to travel a great deal. When did you decide to venture beyond Canada and write about the world beyond North America?

A. When the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, I wanted to find out more about what those women were going through and how we could be useful back in Canada. So I spent time in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan meeting with people and hearing their stories. That was the first time I’d ever done anything like that.

Q. What does it feel like to fight for the oppressed and weak? Also, do you think that human’s can ever control their vices like greed, power, and jealousy which lead to evil actions.

A. I’m honoured to be able to meet so many courageous people around the world. About vices, there is a difference between being human and all the things and go with it and making it legal to drop bombs on people in other countries.


20662575Deborah Ellis, best known for her Breadwinner series, has donated more than $1 million in royalties to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International. She has won many awards, including the Governor General’s Award and Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize.

 

Her new novel The Cat at the Wall centers around Clare, a young girl who finds she has been reincarnated as a cat on the West Bank.

 

 

 

Ask Deborah Ellis Anything! Reddit AMA

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With her new book The Cat at the Wall in bookstores now, Deborah Ellis is ready to tell all in her upcoming Reddit AMA (ask me anything) this Friday, September 19th, at 1pm EST.

20662575 The Cat at the Wall follows Clare, an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary reality of being reincarnated as a cat. She finds herself on the West Bank in a house inhabited by two Israeli soldiers and a small Palestinian boy hiding beneath the floorboards. Like all of Deborah Ellis’ work The Cat at the Wall will spark discussion. It will also inspire readers to imagine the power even simple acts can have.

In a recent interview for the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, Malala Yousafzai named The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis as a book she wished all girls would read. Malala said, “I think it’s important for girls everywhere to learn how women are treated in some societies. But even though Parvana is treated as lesser than boys and men, she never feels that way. She believes in herself and is stronger to fight against hunger, fear and war. Girls like her are an inspiration.” Yousafzai’s interview is an inspiring read in itself and brings to light the importance of writers like Ellis, who are unafraid to tackle tough subjects and bring them to the attention of young readers.

978-1-55498-120-5_lIn her recent nonfiction work Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids, Ellis collected interviews with Indigenous children aged nine to eighteen from across North America and brought their compelling stories into the spotlight. In this book, like her previously acclaimed collections of interviews with Afghan, Iraqi, North American, Israeli, and Palestinian children, Ellis gives children a voice to talk about their cultural identity. It is no surprise that Looks Like Daylight has been announced as a finalist for the 2014 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction.

She continues to post gripping interviews on her personal blog with children whose stories she wants to tell. Her piece for The Guardian entitled “How War Changes People” explores identity as a human right, and describes how war has affected children she has met in war-torn nations. In this essay, Deborah asks, “How do we create an identity for ourselves, and communicate it to others, when all we have known gets stripped away? How do we find the core of who we are in times like this without completely losing our minds?”


 

Deborah Ellis wants to answer any creative, honest, and provocative questions you might have. On Friday, September 19th, sign up for an account on Reddit.com and participate in the AMA session.

DEBORAH ELLIS REDDIT AMA – Friday, September 19th, at 1pm EST

Deb Ellis AMA (dragged)

Joy in the Storm – An Open Letter From Deborah Ellis to the Gaza Strip

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The on-going conflict between Israel and Palestine ebbs and flows in intensity and cruelty. The hardships for children come in the form of bombs from the sky, rocks thrown at car windows, insults at checkpoints and never being sure that the calm of the moment will stretch into the evening.

Kids around the world try to make the best of whatever situation the adult world throws them into. I’ve met kids in refugee camps in Pakistan who make kites from string tied to plastic shopping bags, kids in Zambia who make toys from old tins they find on rubbish tips and kids in prison in Russia who make bracelets from strings torn from their blankets.

The last time I was in Israel and Palestine, in January of 2013, I asked kids what they do to keep themselves feeling as good as possible while the adults around them serve up chaos on a platter for breakfast, lunch and supper.

Yael, a 12 year old Orthodox Jewish boy living in Sderot, next to the Gaza Strip, told me that when the Palestinian bombs rain down on his town, he goes into a shelter and sings psalms, and that helps him feel not so afraid.

A 14 year old Palestinian boy in the southern part of the Gaza Strip told me, “Sometimes we will be out playing football and we’ll hear that the bombs are coming again and we’ll just keep playing. Playing football gives us hope. If we are going to die, we might as well die doing something we love.”

Yaffa, who is nine, is a girl from the Druze community living in the Golan Heights, smack up against the buffer zone between Israel and Syria. She has witnessed large-scale disturbances from refugees breaking through the border and deals with a constant military presence in her town. She chooses to focus on collecting rocks and looking for frogs.

Jabor, a thirteen year old Israeli Arab in Haifa likes to watch Mr. Bean movies when he gets sad, and Jehad, 12, loves to spend time in the children’s library in Ramallah.

All of these children have joys and aspirations that have nothing to do with killing anyone. If left to shape the world on their own, they would make art, play sports, enjoy the natural world and build friendships – all excellent pursuits that would have a lasting positive impact on the world they are going to take over from us.

I wonder what it will take for us to get out of their way and let them get to it.


deb2Deborah Ellis is the author of over twenty beautiful, thought provoking books for young people, including The Breadwinner Trilogy, which has won several literary awards. In her latest work of fiction, The Cat at the Wall, the conflict at the West Bank is told through the eyes of Clare, a young girl who finds herself reincarnated as a cat.

Join Deborah Ellis for a Reddit AMA on Friday, September 19th, at 1pm EST, for a chance to ask her any and all earnest, honest, and provocative questions.

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