________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009

cover Call Me Aram. (New Beginnings).

Marsha Skrypuch. Illustrated by Muriel Wood.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009.
88 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55455-001-2 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55455-000-5 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Armenian massacres, 1915-1923-Turkey-Juvenile fiction.
Orphans-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Jane Bridle.

*** /4

Reviewed from f&g's.


Aram tried to make sense of his new life. He could tell that Reverend Edwards and his wife wanted the best for every single boy in their charge. Aram was grateful for the food that they gave him. He was thankful to be in Canada, where he was safe. But at the same time, he felt empty and sad. He longed for a hug from his Grandmother, and he missed Mgredich's grin. Here, there were no adults who could speak their language, and there was so much that Aram needed to find out.

In this sequel to Aram's Choice, Aram Davidian, one of 50 child refugees from the 1923 Armenian genocide, arrives in Canada at an orphanage in Georgetown, Ontario. Aram's Choice, an historical chapter book for "newly independent readers" in the "New Beginnings" series by Fitzhenry and Whiteside, recounted the journey from Corfu. Call Me Aram relates the difficulties of adjusting to life in Canada. Aram is relieved to have escaped the hunger and uncertainty, but he faces many new fears and contradictory emotions. Even adjusting to new foods, such as porridge, is juxtaposed with the memories of a traditional Armenian breakfast. While Aram appreciates the kindness of his Canadian hosts, he is confused when they call him David Adams. He learns that he and the other boys were assigned Canadian names. Their sponsors believed that the anglicized names were easier to pronounce and would help the boys adjust to new life in Canada, hence the title Call Me Aram.

internal art

     Call Me Aram is a good choice for spearheading discussions about the trials of new Canadians. The book provides a realistic portrayal of the homesickness, difficulties with language and other problems faced by displaced immigrants. The theme of maintaining a cultural identity, even when harboured by well-meaning sponsors, is explored.

     As in Aram's Choice, Muriel Wood's luminous illustrations help to clarify the text. Unfamiliar items, such as a Canadian wood stove and an Armenian ojak or cooking hearth, are illustrated on a double page spread. The font is easy to read, and the book is designed to be comfortable to hold by small hands.

     Historical notes at the end of the book along with reproductions of photographs of the Georgetown Boys complement Skrypuch's narrative and lend authenticity to the story. A selective bibliography of books, films and websites is appended. There is also a glossary and index.

     Aram's Choice was shortlisted for CLA Book of the Year Award 2007, Silver Birch Express Award, 2007, Golden Oak Award 2008 and won a Resource Links Best Book Award in 2006. The sequel, Call Me Aram, is a compelling story with a satisfying conclusion about a little know event in Canadian history.


Jane Bridle is a librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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