CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 4 . . . . October 13, 2006
Aram's Choice, an historical chapter book for "newly independent readers" (in the “New Beginnings” series by Fitzhenry and Whiteside) begins on June 23, 1923 in Corfu, Greece. It follows the journey of a group of Armenian boys who are offered asylum in an orphanage in Georgetown, ON, in the aftermath of the Armenian genocide by the Turks in 1915.
Twelve-year-old Aram, along with 50 other boys who have lost their families in the massacre, learns he will soon leave Greece where he and his grandmother have found temporary refuge. His grandmother, too poor to feed Aram, knows that, if he is to escape the fate of his father, he must emigrate to Canada.
Marcia Skrypuch, who first heard of the Armenian genocide while doing research for a magazine article, captures the hopes and fears of the young Aram as he travels by cargo ship to Marseilles, by train to Paris and Cherbourg, and then by ocean liner to Canada to the orphanage in Georgetown, ON. Aram experiences anxiety caused by separation from his grandmother and from his best friend who falls from the train and who must remain behind to recuperate. Finally, despite the efforts of the boys who collect their quarters to try to help their gym teacher, Mr. Chechian, he does not meet Canadian immigration requirements and is forced to return to Corfu. These situations are heartbreaking and are compounded by Aram's homesickness for his native country. While Aram dreams of happy reunions, the outcome of these separations is not disclosed and may leave young readers puzzled by the conclusion.
Aram's Choice is based on the recollections of a survivor, one of the original "Georgetown Boys" and the details ring true. Readers will be intrigued by the delightful descriptions of the boys' introduction to new experiences in Canada. The hungry children, used to nondescript stews, savour new foods like bananas, spearmint chewing gum and milk and buttered buns.
The novel includes a glossary, index, a list of films, websites and suggestions for further reading as well as a map of Aram's route to Canada. The font size is large and chapters short enough to suit beginning readers. The luminous, coloured illustrations which appear on most pages are by artist Muriel Wood who has illustrated other titles in the “New Beginnings” series including Lizzie's Storm and Scared Sarah.
Young readers will find information on a little known period of Armenian and Canadian history in an enjoyable and easy to read format.
Jane Bridle is a librarian at Winnipeg Public Library.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.