This is a beautifully told story that will resonate with readers who have struggled with being new and unsure in a strange place, even if that place is in a classroom full of people they know. Ana's story is unique but universal; strange but familiar; extraordinary but ordinary: a fish out of water tale that speaks to us all.
|Publisher:||PRH Canada Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||5.56(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.66(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The house was small: a clapboard box on a square, weed-strewn lot fringed by a green wire fence. The owner was an elderly Italian woman called Mrs. Fratelli who lived on the other side of town in Little Portugal. Ana didn’t know how her father had found Mrs. Fratelli or the house; she only knew that the rent was cheap and that he paid half of it in kind, by rebuilding the front porch and traveling across town a few times a week to do odd jobs for Mrs. Fratelli and her neighbors.
The neighborhood was not quite as shabby as the house. It was what people in these Canadian cities described as “up and coming.” Children played in front gardens, old men smoked and read the newspaper in camping chairs, and fancy cars sometimes got keyed at night. Ana had never seen so many houses so close together. Why, in this enormous country, did they have to huddle against each other like this, as though space was running out? Perhaps for warmth: the winters here were cold, she knew.
Inside, the house was dark in shades of brown and yellow. Yellow linoleum in the kitchen, brown trim in the front room. A narrow staircase with a stained beige carpet fraying on the sides. Upstairs, a bathroom with a shower and toilet with a permanent brown stain seeping down the pipe. Two bedrooms: her father’s at the back, with a bed and built-in closet (only one of the doors opened); Ana’s room had just enough space for a single bed and a nightstand with a mirror, but it looked out onto the street and got the most light in the entire house.
There was little furniture. The two beds and nightstand, a table and four folding chairs in the kitchen, and a squashed, faded sofa in the front room. There was a barbecue lid on the back porch, but no barbecue. A broom but no dustpan. A few mugs in the kitchen cupboard—one white with a cartoon dog and SNOOPY written in bubble letters; two blue pottery ones with brown speckles in the glaze that looked like mold—and a pack of paper plates. That was it.
“Stay inside, and don’t answer the door to anybody,” Papa said on the first day, as he went out to buy food. So Ana had sat on her bed and looked out the window at the street, where people walked dogs and children rode scooters and cars parked and locked and pulled away again.
By the third day, Papa had drawn Ana a map of the neighborhood. There was a supermarket a few blocks away, and a pay phone on the corner for emergencies. “It’s safe,” he told her. “You need fresh air and sun and exercise. Don’t talk to anyone, though, and stay within these four streets.”
By the second week, she was going out every day, walking up and down the two streets running parallel to their own and tracing the perimeter up to Danforth Avenue and back down to the park. She wandered the aisles in the supermarket and stood in front of the freezer to cool down when the humidity outside got too much.
“If anyone asks, remember that you’re Ana now,” her father said. “Not Anneli.”
He had given her sweatpants to wear at the airport and bought jeans for himself. Her dress and his overalls were bundled into a plastic bag and left at the bottom of the wardrobe.
“When Mrs. Fratelli pays me, I’ll buy us some good clothes,” he said. “Don’t worry.”