Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine, illustrated by Claudia Davila

 

Published by Kids Can Press 

Summary:  Michel Chikwanine had a pretty idyllic childhood with his parents and three sisters in the Democratic Republic of Congo until he was kidnapped one day at the age of five.  He and his friends were taken in broad daylight while playing soccer and forced to become soldiers for a rebel army.  Then were given drugs and taught to shoot.  One nightmarish day, Michel was blindfolded and forced to shoot and kill his best friend, Kevin.  After two weeks, Michel managed to escape and make his way back to his family, but it was impossible for him to resume his old life.  Eventually, the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo worsened; Michel’s father was imprisoned and killed; and Michel, his mother, and two of his three sisters made their way to Canada.  After a difficult transition, Michel has been able to tell his story and now travels the world inspiring others to make a difference.  Grades 6-9.

Pros:  An incredibly powerful story told in graphic novel form.  The page near the end in which Michel sits on the bus listening to his classmates complain about cold pizza, boring classes, and crummy cell phones should give anyone with “First World problems” pause.  The last few pages, with more information about Michel, child soldiers, and what kids can do to help, will inspire readers to take action.

Cons:  Read this book before giving it to a child.  It’s part of Kids Can Press’s Citizen Kid series of inspiring picture book stories of Third World children, but this one is much darker and more intense than any of the others.  There are a couple of pretty disturbing scenes that may not be appropriate for all young readers.

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