February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine & Jessica Dee Humphreys | SLJ Review

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child soldierChikwanine, Michel & Jessica Dee Humphreys. Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War. illus. by Claudia Dávila. 48p. (CitizenKid). websites. Kids Can. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781771381260.

Gr 3-6–Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a child soldier at age five, Chikwanine tells his painful yet ultimately uplifting story with help from coauthor Humphreys and artist Dávila. Though there was unrest in his country, Michel lived a happy, carefree existence with his parents and sisters—until one day after school he was abducted by soldiers. He lived in a state of terror and exhaustion while he underwent training, until he was able to escape and return to his family. However, more trauma lay ahead. Chickwanine, Humphreys, and Dávila handle this difficult subject sensitively; readers are informed that “these events did not occur out of the blue and won’t suddenly happen to you.” The authors gloss over some details to keep the story age appropriate, but they do acknowledge some difficult truths. Chickwanine’s narration is matter of fact but never didactic, emphasizing less the gruesome details and more young Michel’s emotional response and attempts to make sense of the world around him. Earthy hued and gentle, the images make a potentially disturbing topic accessible. Dávila foregoes blood and gore for more delicate, effective ways of depicting fear and danger, such as using darker hues, extreme close-ups, and dramatic angles. Several pages of back matter provide more information on Chickwanine’s life, child soldiers in general, and resources for those who want to get involved combating this problem. VERDICT An enlightening, accessible, and, above all, child-friendly introduction to the issue.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s July 2015 issue.

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