February 23, 2018

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Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton | SLJ Review

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redstarHUTTON, Keely. Soldier Boy. 336p. Farrar. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374305635.

Gr 9 Up –A compelling tale that recounts the story of former, real-life Ugandan child soldier Ricky Richard Anywar. Told in alternating chapters that focus on Ricky’s past and the present-day story of Samuel, this brutally honest novel will have readers struggling to move through the often gruesome initiation of kidnapped children into the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ricky is consumed by fear and desperation as he attempts to escape from the LRA with his older brother. Samuel’s narration is permeated with distrust and alarm as he figures out how to deal with a severe injury and his placement in a rehabilitation program. This book is filled with many instances of graphic violence. Hutton’s intense accounts of families burned alive and machete attacks on villagers emphasize the emotional anguish. While the subject matter is mature, the story is accessible and addresses topics such as world history, civil war, and shifting political powers. A description of the Friends of Orphans program ends this work with a message of hope. Readers may liken this title to memoirs such as Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. An author’s note explains that Hutton spent a considerable amount of time with Anywar and read through several interviews with other survivors to craft accurate depictions of life as a child soldier. VERDICT A must-purchase for teen collections, with the understanding that this text portrays traumatic childhood violence associated with civil war.–Monica Cabarcas, Albemarle High School, Charlottesville, VA

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

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