The Courage of Elfina

Lorimer. Aug. 2019. 64p. further reading. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781459414198.
Gr 7 Up–In rural Paraguay, 12-year-old Elfina faces grim realities: her mother has died, her father works as a migrant farmer in Brazil, and her prospects seem stagnant. When Aunt Evoala invites Elfina to live in Asunción, Elfina’s grandma jumps at the opportunity despite her ward’s objections. Soon, Elfina is serving as her new family’s indentured domestic in Montreal, where she’s subjugated by Evoala, molested by her uncle, and ignored by her cousins. After months of determined resistance, Elfina seeks refuge. Textually sparse and visually rich, this translation from the French embodies Lorimer’s “for reluctant readers” tagline. Jacob’s writing sets a steady pace, and Delezenne’s high-contrast black, white, and blue illustrations invigorate the book, with Elfina’s strength and silent resilience manifesting on the page. Section breaks align her internal world with seasons; alternating gridlock and open panels yoke and unfetter bits of narrative; and recurring images, from a sequence of analogue clocks to a surreal depiction of a washing machine to a map of Montreal, convey and transcend her captivity. Still, the spare art borders on austere and would have benefited from a burst of color beyond the use of clement blue. An epilogue offers statistics on forced labor and further reading on children’s rights.
VERDICT This slight volume packs considerable punch, laying bare the peril tens of millions of marginalized children face every day. A worthy acquisition for school and public libraries

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