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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Call Me Aram (New Beginnings)* by Marsha Skrypuch, illustrated by Muriel Wood - young readers book review
Also by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch:

When Mama Goes to Work

Aram's Choice (New Beginnings)

Daughter of War

Kobzar's Children: A Century of Untold Stories by Ukrainians
Call Me Aram (New Beginnings)
by Marsha Skrypuch, illustrated by Muriel Wood
Ages 9-12 86 pages Fitzhenry and Whiteside November 2008 Paperback    

Call Me Aram is the story of Aram Davidian, an Armenian refugee orphan who comes to Canada after surviving the Armenian genocide at the beginning of the 20th century. He arrives at the Georgetown Boys’ Farm in Ontario on July 2, 1923:
“He and forty-five other boys had traveled halfway around the world by boat, train, and ship. He was in Canada now, far away from war. And the missionary back in Corfu had promised to look after his grandmother.” (p. 8)
At first, Aram and his friends are thrilled with their new home. They are free and safe from the horrors of war. However, the transition to Canada is not totally smooth. They have to eat oatmeal porridge for breakfast, which tastes like “lumpy gray goo” and reminds Aram of “dirt after rain.” They miss their tasty Armenian foods - pilaf and lahvosh. Their caregivers, Reverend and Mrs. Edwards, do not understand a word of Armenian, so it is difficult to communicate with them.

When a group of Canadians arrive to meet the orphans, they bring a strange new contraption called a camera. At first, the boys are afraid because they think the camera might be a weapon, but soon they are fascinated by the pictures that the camera takes. However, the Canadians call them strange new names. Aram is called David Adams:
“Aram couldn’t understand English, but he had an uneasy feeling that something wasn’t right.”(p. 22)
It is not until the Armenian-speaking Mr. Alexanian, a businessman from Toronto, arrives that the boys are really able to communicate with their caregivers. Still, the Canadians keep calling Aram David. He continually tells them, “Call me Aram.” Will he be able to keep his name in this new country of Canada?

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, an accomplished and prize-winning novelist, has written an inspired novel for young readers about the consequences of the Armenian genocide. In the “Historical Note,” she provides readers with important background information on the historical events. Photographs of the Georgetown Boys and Mr. Aris Alexanian allow readers to make connections between actual events and the fictional account.

This novel is based on the recorded interviews of the Georgetown Boys describing their journey from Turkey to Corfu and later to Canada. The last Georgetown Boy died in 2003, giving Marsha access to the final tapes; “The boys are gone, but their words live on.” (p. 79)

Muriel Wood’s illustrations add a powerful visual dimension to the story. Wood is acclaimed for the accurate historical detail in her illustrations in books such as Apples and Angel Ladders, Scared Sarah, The Olden Days Coat, Anne of Green Gables and Old Bird. The illustrations in this novel, in tones of pastel blue, green and yellow, portray the boys’ experiences in their new land – excitement, confusion, surprise and satisfaction. The illustrations add not only interest but a great deal of detail which enhances the reader’s understanding of the plot, characters and setting of this novel.

Call Me Aram is a continuation of the story that Skrypuch began in Aram’s Choice, which was nominated for several awards. As a former librarian, her novels reflect a keen interest in history and social issues. She does meticulous research and pays close attention to accuracy of historical detail. Skrypuch’s other books for children and young adults include Daughter of War, Nobody’s Child, Silver Threads, The Hunger, Hope’s War and Prisoners in the Promised Land: The Ukrainian Internment Diary of Anya Soloniuk.

Call Me Aram is a powerful novel based on firsthand accounts of actual historical events which will appeal to young readers and adults. It leaves readers with a powerful message about remembering one’s roots: “We are glad to be Canadian, but we don’t want to forget where we came from.” (p. 71)
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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