Book of the Month Archive

No Safe Place

“The charity worker opened the first-aid kit and ripped open packets of gauze with her teeth. ‘Hold this!’ She pulled in volunteers to put pressure on the wound and carry the man to the truck. Abdul could tell from the cries and the noise of pounding boots that the CRS, [the security police] were almost at them. He got ready to run.

Then he spied the knife – a serrated fish-gutter’s knife – scuffling around under people’s feet. A knife like that would give him protection. He wouldn’t even have to use it. He could just show it to people and they’d back away.                                                                        

Scrambling on his hands and knees, he went after the knife. Several times he almost had it, then it would be kicked from his reach by the crowd on the move.                                    

Finally his hand went firmly around the knife handle. Already he felt stronger. He held it tightly and got to his feet. He brought the knife up just as a CRS officer moved in close to him. The knife stabbed into the officer’s arm.                                                            

In that moment, Abdul saw the officer look at his face and memorize it through the protective plexiglass of his faceshield.”


Ellis, Deborah. No Safe Place. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2010.                              

ISBN# 978-0-88899-974-0

From the writer of The Breadwinner Trilogy comes a stunning new novel for older teen readers. Note the word older, as No Safe Place is fast-paced, informative, and has a fearlessly dark atmosphere. Following the intertwining lives of three young illegal migrants, the novel explores each character’s attempt to reach England. As we get to know Abdul, Rosalia and Cheslav, we learn about their pasts and come to understand why they believe there is really “no safe place” for any of them.

Ellis is a master at weaving social justice issues and global concerns into her character-driven fiction, and No Safe Place would make a fantastic novel study for English 10 or 11 classes, or as an addition to a Literature Circles reading list. The group and class discussion, student reflection and written assignments a teacher could create around this novel would be meaningful as well as a possible interdisciplinary avenue into social studies curriculum.

Based upon the importance of the subject matter in conjunction with Ellis’ brilliant prose, I highly recommend this tautly-wound novel. If it cannot be fit into your curriculum, at least order No Safe Place for your school library.

Find out more about Deborah Ellis on her publisher’s website:

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