Child Soldier : When Boys and Girls are Used in War.
( Ages 10+ ) - A Graphic Memoir
By : Michel Chikwanine(Author), Jessica Dee(Author) & Claudia Dàvila(Illustrator)
Publisher : CirizenKid - Kids Can Press (Sept., 2015)
A poignant reminder about the horrific truths lying,hidden in this world,that we tend to conveniently ignore, most of the time. The Child Soldier is a memoir, the true story of the author. Chikwanine grew up in the Republic of Congo during the early nineties where he experienced a civil war, poverty first hand and many political dilemmas.This is, obviously a book, that is helpful in expanding the horizons of a talented young reader.
He had a very normal childhood surrounded by close circles of family and friends. He,being the only son in the family had a close bond with his father: a human rights lawyer. Their home was a place of bubbling happiness where many hungry mouths from the neighborhood were fed and there were children playing outside all the time.Their spare time was spent on making footballs out of plastic bags & papers and playing football. He went to the market to watch his mother selling clothes. It was this childhood innocence that was shattered when he was kidnapped along with his friends by a rebel group. Michel was not more than five at this point. He was a confident and a brave child and this helped him in his escape. Even though he was reunited with his family, the incident changed their lives. Michel`s experiences and memories as a child soldier fractured his childhood.
As his father`s human rights activities aroused anger in the rebels, their troubles heightened. Michel`s father had to leave Congo due to threats. They were attacked by rebels. As a result Michel with his mother and one of his sisters fled from Congo to Uganda where his father was staying in a refugee camp. Since then he had to live in refugee camps for years until they came to Canada as refugees. He learnt more about the world around him in the camp "People said that huge trucks like the ones that brought food to our camp were driven just for fun.That a man named Michel Jordan was paid $30 million dollars to throw a ball into a basket".He also realized that many more people had gone through similar painful experiences, which in turn helped him to stop feeling self-pity. Michel`s father was an enormous pillar of strength to him throughout his childhood years until they parted upon his death. Echoes of his last words are still in his memory." Remember Michel,A great person is not described by their money or success ...But rather by their heart and what they do for others."
The violence in the story is kept to a minimum but it is unforgettably painful. One cannot imagine writing about a child soldier without mentioning violence, and in this memoir it is cleverly held at the edges of the story. The author-illustrator team has done a remarkable job in taking up the challenge of conveying this story; without harming the theme, with the use of narrative captions to tell the story (in Michel`s voice), dialog in speech bubbles and expressive illustrations in sombre colours to comply with the story. This is an instance where all features of a graphical format is utilized to the highest capacity. And the author divulges this brutal tale in a toned-down form while preserving the reader`s empathy. He delivers a clear message about thoughtfulness and about being appreciative. Through this tale, the utter insanity of using children as instruments of war is exposed to their peers. In doing so, lets hope for a better tomorrow.
( With many thanks to Kids Can Press and NetGally for the ARC in return for a honest review)