Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 12
- Grade: 3 to 7
An eleven-year-old orphan is reconnected to her mother's family, but her courage and strength are tested as she is put to work in a textile mill.
Flora is a young, imaginative girl who has dreamt of having a family to call her own since her parents died from pleurisy when she was three. She dreams of family dinners. She dreams of friends. But mostly she dreams of leaving the orphanage. As the diary begins, Flora is still in an orphanage in Kingston, but her Auntie Janet has just married, and she and her husband James send for Flora to come and live with them in Almonte, Ontario. Once she arrives at her aunt's, Flora begins work in the Almonte Mill, even though she is underage - typical for many children of the era. She works from dawn to dusk, near huge and noisy machines, and she sees the effects of the mill on workers who have lost an arm or their hearing. Still, this life is better than going back to the orphanage. But when Uncle James loses several fingers at the weaving machine and can't work anymore, money is really tight, and it's up to Flora and her aunt to find a way out of the predicament.
Through all her trials, Flora writes down her feelings in a journal, one she addresses to "Dear Papa and Mama", because it makes her feel close to the parents she lost when she was young. Days of Toil and Tears includes historical background giving readers the social context of young mill workers, and a map of the textile industry of Canada, as well as fascinating photographs from this era.
About the author
Sarah Ellis is one of Canada's most-loved children's writers. A former librarian, she is a highly sought-after children's book reviewer, literary jury member and speaker who lectures internationally on Canadian children's books. She is the winner of the Governor General's Award (Pick-Up Sticks), the Mr. Christie's Award (Out of the Blue and The Several Lives of Orphan Jack) and the Sheila A. Egoff Award (The Baby Project, Back of Beyond and Odd Man Out). Further accolades for Odd Man Out include the prestigious TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master List, ALA Notable Book for Older Readers, Maine State Library Cream of the Crop List and OLA Best Bets - Top 10 Fiction for Children. Sarah Ellis has also won the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. Sarah is on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.