Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Courage of Elfina

Jacob, André (Author)
Delezenne, Christine (Illustrator)
Lorimer 2019. 64 pages
First published: 2019
ISBN: 9781459414198 (hardcover)
Original language: French
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

conflict, multimodal, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This succinct graphic tale addresses the problem of forced child labour, through one impoverished youngster’s experience with exploitation. Elfina is 12 years old when she is sent to live with her aunt—ostensibly for school and the opportunities of urban life.

Clear language uses Elfina’s voice to relate her growing predicament: “I was stunned when Aunt Evoala told me I’d be travelling to another country with the whole family. I screwed up the courage to ask how long I’d be away and whether I’d be able to go to school.”

Two-colour artwork in black and shades of blue combines realistic faces and figures with artful and stylized backdrops. One image represents Elfina’s arrival at the new house in Montréal. Brick textures show five rising turrets, each bearing a flag with the name of a family member. In the foreground stands the tiny figure of Elfina, dressed in an old-fashioned gown and tiara (“could have made me believe I was about to enter Cinderella’s castle.”) The facing page shows a whirling vortex of Elfinas, wielding a vacuum cleaner and a broom while doing laundry.

Both pictures and words eloquently convey Elfina’s isolation and drudgery, in contrast with her cousins, who attend school, make new friends and learn the local language. They also hint at contributing issues such as poverty, racism, classism and greed: “If, as they say, wealth from hard work really does grow over time, I should end up a millionaire.” In the end, resilience and resourcefulness triumph, when Elfina finds help at a neighbourhood church, ultimately returning to her family and home village—but with new friends in Canada committed to helping her with schooling.

Back material offers further information on forced child labour around the world.

  •  

    Discuss what you know about child labour and the rights of children. Considering these issues, how do you think Canada compares with Third World countries?

  •  

    What were the main differences between Elfina's life in Paraguay and her new life in Canada? What would be most challenging for you if you were in Elfina’s position?

  •  Use an inquiry process to learn more about child labour around the world. Focus on one aspect or area that is of interest to you and present your findings to your class. Propose ideas for making a difference.
  •  

    With a partner, discuss child labour: Where does it take place and why? What form does it take? What can be done to change things for the better?

  •  

    Draw a two-column table and, as you read, jot down Elfina’s allies and antagonists.

  •  

    “Like all young people my age, I now have the right to dream.” Create an awareness campaign about child labour and use that quote as your driving slogan. Do additional research if necessary.

  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Social Sciences