Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis CM OOnt (born August 7, 1960) is a Canadian fiction-writer and activist. Her themes are often concerned with the sufferings of persecuted children in the Third World.

Deborah Ellis
Deborah Ellis in Renaissance, Florida, 2011.
Deborah Ellis in Renaissance, Florida, 2011.
Born (1960-08-07) August 7, 1960 (age 59)
Cochrane, Ontario, Canada
OccupationWriter, activist and feminist.
Notable works
  • Looking for X (1999)
  • The Breadwinner series (2001–2011)

Early lifeEdit

Born in Cochrane, Ontario, Canada, Ellis and her family moved several times during her childhood due to her parents' work. Ellis decided to start writing when she was 11 or 12 years old.[1]


Much of her work as a writer has been inspired by her travels and conversations with people from around the world and their stories. She has held many jobs advocating for the peace movement and the anti-war movement.

She travelled to Pakistan in 1997 to interview refugees at an Afghan refugee camp.[2] From these interviews, she wrote The Breadwinner series, which includes The Breadwinner (2001), a book about a girl named Parvana,[3][4] Parvana's Journey (2002), its sequel,[5] Mud City (2003), about Shauzia, Parvana's best friend,[6] and My Name is Parvana (2011), the final book in the series. While The Breadwinner was inspired by an interview with a mother and a girl who disguised herself as a boy in a refugee camp,[7] the subsequent books in the series were more imaginative explorations of how children would survive.

In 1999, her novel Looking for X was published. It follows a young girl in her day-to-day life in a poor area of Toronto[8] and it received the Governor General's Award for English-language children's literature in 2000.[9]

One of her best known works is the 2004 book The Heaven Shop, which tells of a family of orphans in Malawi who are struggling with sudden displacement as a result of the HIV/AIDS impact. The novel was written to dispel myths about HIV/AIDS and celebrate the courage of child sufferers.[10]

In 2006, she wrote the best-seller, I Am a Taxi, which tells the story of a Colombian boy named Diego whose family was accused of smuggling coca paste, which is used to produce cocaine. After an accident causes Diego's family to owe money to the prison in which they are incarcerated in, the boy must earn them money. He ends up in the coca "pits" where the coca leaves are made into coca paste, and the story follows his adventures from there.[11][12] The sequel, Sacred Leaf, is about Diego's time with the Ricardos (a family who helped Diego) and a giant coca leaf protest.[13]

In 2007, with Eric Walters, Ellis wrote Bifocal, a novel about racism and terrorists in Canada.[14]

In 2008, Ellis published Lunch with Lenin and Other Stories, a collection of short stories that explores the lives of children who have been affected directly, or indirectly, by drugs. The stories are set against backdrops as diverse as the remote north of Canada to Moscow's Red Square to an opium farm in Afghanistan.[15][16]

In 2014, she published Moon at Nine, a YA novel based on the true story of two teenage girls who are arrested and thrown in prison in Iran, a country where homosexuality is punishable by death.


In 2006, Ellis was named to the Order of Ontario.[17]

Ellis is the recipient of the Governor General's Award,[9] the Jane Addams Children's Book Award,[18] the Vicky Metcalf Award for a body of work,[19] an ALA Notable,[20] and the Children's Africana Book Award Honor Book for Older Readers.[21]

In December 2016, Ellis was named a Member of the Order of Canada.[22]

Personal lifeEdit

Ellis is a philanthropist, donating almost all of her royalties on her books to such organizations as "Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan" and UNICEF.[23] Due to this work, she has been threatened by the Taliban.[24]

Selected bibliographyEdit

These are some of the works of Deborah Ellis:[25]


  1. ^ Profile of Deborah Ellis Archived 2009-02-15 at the Wayback Machine, University of Manitoba. Accessed October 6, 2012
  2. ^ Meet Deborah Ellis, Children' Accessed October 8, 2012 Archived 2012-10-30 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis – review, The Guardian. Accessed October 7, 2012
  4. ^ The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, The Literate Mother. Accessed October 7, 2012
  5. ^ Review of Parvana's Journey, CM Magazine, University of Manitoba. Accessed October 7, 2012
  6. ^ Review of Mud City, CM Magazine, University of Manitoba. Accessed October 7, 2012.
  7. ^ About the authors[permanent dead link], Skokie Public Library, Skokie, Illinois. Accessed October 8, 2012[dead link]
  8. ^ Review of Looking for X, CM Magazine, University of Manitoba. Accessed October 7, 2012
  9. ^ a b Governor General's Literature Awards: List of winners page 24. Accessed October 6, 2012 Archived May 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Review of The Heaven Shop by CM magazine of the University of Manitoba Accessed October 6, 2012
  11. ^ I am a Taxi by Deborah Ellis Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine Accessed October 7, 2012
  12. ^ Review of I Am a Taxi by the Canada's Magazine of Book News and Reviews, Quill & Quire. Accessed October 7, 2012
  13. ^ Sacred Leaf: The Cocalero Novels Archived 2014-03-30 at the Wayback Machine, review on Accessed October 7, 2012
  14. ^ Review of Bifocal, CM Magazine, University of Manitoba. Accessed October 7, 2012
  15. ^ Review of Lunch with Lenin and Other Stories, CM Magazine, University of Manitoba. Accessed October 7, 2012
  16. ^ Review of Lunch with Lenin and Other Stories by the Canada's Magazine of Book News and Reviews, Quill & Quire. Accessed October 7, 2012
  17. ^ Order of Ontario appointments announced 2006 Accessed October 7, 2012 Archived May 19, 2014, at
  18. ^ Previous book award winners, Jane Addams Peace Association, pp. 6–7. Accessed October 7, 2012.
  19. ^ Prize History, Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature. Accessed October 7, 2012
  20. ^ 2006 Notable Children's Books, Association for Library Service to Children. American Library Association. Accessed October 7, 2012
  21. ^ Past Winners, Older Readers Archived 2012-08-26 at the Wayback Machine, Children's Africana Book Awards. Accessed October 7, 2012
  22. ^ "Order of Canada's newest appointees include Paralympian, Supreme Court judge and astrophysicist". CBC News, December 30, 2016.
  23. ^ Article on Quill & Quire Accessed on October 6, 2012
  24. ^ "Another disgraceful stigma on the face of the Taliban!". Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  25. ^ Page about Deborah Ellis' works Accessed October 6, 2012 Archived April 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit