My Story Starts Here

My Story Starts Here

Voices of Young Offenders

Written by: Ellis, Deborah
ages 12 and up / grades 7 and up

Deborah Ellis, activist and award-winning author of The Breadwinner interviews young people involved in the criminal justice system and lets them tell their own stories.

Jamar found refuge in a gang after leaving an abusive home where his mother stole from him. Fred was arrested for assault with a weapon, public intoxication and attacking his mother while on drugs. Jeremy first went to court at age fourteen (“Court gives you the feeling that you can never make up for what you did, that you’re just bad forever”) but now wears a Native Rights hat to remind him of his strong Métis heritage. Kate, charged with petty theft and assault, finally found a counselor who treated her like a person for the first time.

Many readers will recognize themselves, or someone they know, somewhere in these stories. Being lucky or unlucky after making a mistake. The encounter with a mean cop or a good one. Couch-surfing, or being shunted from one foster home to another. The kids in this book represent a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities. Every story is different, but there are common threads — loss of parenting, dislocation, poverty, truancy, addiction, discrimination. The book also includes the points of view of family members as well as “voices of experience” — adults looking back at their own experiences as young offenders.

Most of all, this book leaves readers asking the most pressing questions of all. Does it make sense to put kids in jail? Can’t we do better? Have we forgotten that we were once teens ourselves, feeling powerless to change our lives, confused about who we were and what we wanted, and quick to make a move without a thought for the consequences?

Key Text Features
illustrations
photographs
further reading
glossary
resources

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.2
Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.6
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.8
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Deborah Ellis, activist and award-winning author of The Breadwinner interviews young people involved in the criminal justice system and lets them tell their own stories.

Jamar found refuge in a gang after leaving an abusive home where his mother stole from him. Fred was arrested for assault with a weapon, public intoxication and attacking his mother while on drugs. Jeremy first went to court at age fourteen (“Court gives you the feeling that you can never make up for what you did, that you’re just bad forever”) but now wears a Native Rights hat to remind him of his strong Métis heritage. Kate, charged with petty theft and assault, finally found a counselor who treated her like a person for the first time.

Many readers will recognize themselves, or someone they know, somewhere in these stories. Being lucky or unlucky after making a mistake. The encounter with a mean cop or a good one. Couch-surfing, or being shunted from one foster home to another. The kids in this book represent a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities. Every story is different, but there are common threads — loss of parenting, dislocation, poverty, truancy, addiction, discrimination. The book also includes the points of view of family members as well as “voices of experience” — adults looking back at their own experiences as young offenders.

Most of all, this book leaves readers asking the most pressing questions of all. Does it make sense to put kids in jail? Can’t we do better? Have we forgotten that we were once teens ourselves, feeling powerless to change our lives, confused about who we were and what we wanted, and quick to make a move without a thought for the consequences?

Key Text Features
illustrations
photographs
further reading
glossary
resources

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.2
Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.6
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.8
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Published By Groundwood Books Ltd — Sep 1, 2019
Specifications 224 pages | 7.25 in x 10.5 in
Supporting Resources
(select item to download)
Excerpt
Teacher's Guide
Written By

DEBORAH ELLIS is the author of the international bestseller The Breadwinner, which has been published in twenty-five languages. She has won the Governor General’s Award, the Middle East Book Award, the Peter Pan Prize, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award. Recently named to the Order of Canada, Deborah has donated $2 million in royalties to organizations such as Women for Women in Afghanistan, UNICEF and Street Kids International. She lives in Simcoe, Ontario.

Audience ages 12 and up / grades 7 and up
Reading Levels Lexile 800L
Fountas & Pinnel Text Level Z+
Guided Reading Z+
Key Text Features illustrations; photographs; further reading; glossary; resources

Commended, The List, Toronto Public Library, 2020

Commended, In the Margins Recommended Nonfiction List, 2020

Praise for Deborah Ellis and My Story Starts Here:

The List, Toronto Public Library, 2020
In the Margins Recommended Nonfiction List, 2020

“Young people of different genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities share powerful stories of being incarcerated or homeless … poignant, hopeful, and rage-inducing.” — Booklist

“A worthy addition to a middle or high school library…” —School Library Journal

“The stories are compelling and dark … A powerful collection.” — Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Deborah Ellis and Looks Like Daylight:

“… [T]he interviews [are] often simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful in the span of just a few pages … [Ellis’s] voice does not distract from the subjects, and both Ellis’s setup and the children’s knowledge make connections between current injustice and the violent legacies of colonialism and racism that prevent this from falling into the trap of sensationalism. Unflinching and informative, this volume will appeal to a broad range of readers, and it offers plenty of opportunities for incorporation of diverse viewpoints into curricula …” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“It’s heartening that so many of these young people are positive about their lives, no matter how troubled, and about their futures … Ellis’ book is an excellent opportunity for classroom discussion and individual, empathy-inducing reading.” — Booklist, starred review 

Praise for Deborah Ellis and Kids of Kabul:

“These speakers are not characters, functioning in a plot, but teens’ actual contemporaries, whose voices linger long after the reading.” — Booklist

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