Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In From The Cold - Deborah Ellis

Title: In From The Cold
Author: Deborah Ellis
Publisher: Grass Root Press, 2010 (Paperback), Good Reads series
Length: 74 pages
Genre: Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: January 10, 2011
Finished: January 10, 2011

From the back of the book:
Rose and her daughter Hazel are on the run in a big city. During the day, Rose and Hazel live in a shack hidden in the bushes. At night, they look for food in garbage bins. In the summer, living in the shack was like an adventure for Hazel. But now, winter is coming and the nights are cold. Hazel is starting to miss her friends and her school. Rose is trying to do the right thing for her daughter, but everything is going so wrong. Will Hazel stay loyal to her mother, or will she try to return to her old life?

When I was doing research into activities for Family Literacy Day (January 27th up here), I came across a series of books affiliated with ABC Life Literacy Canada made with adult literacy learners in mind. The Good Reads series is made up of 6 books all written by Canadian authors, 5 fiction, one non-fiction. All the titles are under 100 pages, are written at a grade 4, 5, or 6 reading level, and are what teachers call "high interest, low vocabulary", aka books struggling readers will want to read and not have issues with the text itself. There are a ton of resources out there for kids and teenagers that are struggling readers. I've used them in my schools and they are pretty successful with the kids, especially the more recent ones where they capitalize on topics kids are actually interested in, especially ones that cater to boys. But there aren't a lot of resources out there for adult literacy learners. A lot of the materials I've seen are old and look juvenile, not something a lot of adults look forward to using. These books are written with adult characters in situations that are interesting to adults, plus they employ an uncomplicated easy to read style appropriate for adult learners to gain confidence. The Toronto Star did a piece on the series that you can read here. These books are available at many educational organizations and libraries, but I picked these up at my local bookstore (my library only just ordered them and they won't be circulating for a little while yet). Because the books are so short, they're only about $7 each if you're buying them. I picked up 4 out of the 6 titles, so I'll post thoughts on them as I read them.

Okay enough about the series, on to the book itself.

Deborah Ellis is one of my favourite Canadian authors. She writes a lot of children's and young adult books on difficult issues, and her novels are ones I keep for use in my classes when I want to explore international issues like Afghanistan, and HIV in Africa in a way appropriate for kids. Her Breadwinner trilogy is one that schools use all the time, but my personal favourite is The Heaven Shop, showing the effects of HIV on children in Africa. When I found out she'd written a story for this series for adults, it was the first one I read.

In From The Cold is about Rose and her ten-year-old daughter Hazel living on the streets. Four months ago, Rose and Hazel lived a relatively comfortable life in a middle-class neighbourhood, but now they scavenge through dumpsters for food and sleep in a shack. Hazel asks her mother why she can't go back to her school, so you learn a bit about why Rose and Hazel are on the run to begin with. With the cold weather coming, Rose begins to wonder whether she should leave so Hazel can go into foster care and just start over somewhere else. Since it's a short story that's relying on plot, you don't get a lot of insight into the characters, but you get enough to feel for their situation and what drove them to this. Readers also see the real-life need for resources for women and children when they become as desperate as Rose and Hazel.

An easily accessible title for adult readers with limited literacy skills that's actually engaging to read. These would appeal to young adults too, hence why I'm adding them to my classroom library for my struggling readers.

Thoughts on the cover:
A nice appealing cover photo, makes it obvious that the book is on homelessness.

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