Bamboo People

Gr 7—10—Conflict and civil war in Burma (Myanmar) make a fascinating setting for this story (Charlesbridge, 2010) by Mitali Perkins. Chiko, a 15-year-old Burmese boy, longs to demonstrate the courage of his father, a doctor who has been arrested for resisting the Burmese government. Chiko fears that his bookish ways have prevented him from being a true man and that his desire to be a teacher will never be realized under the oppressive regime. Chiko is rounded up and forced into the Burmese Army to fight against the Karenni, one of Burma's many ethnic minorities. He befriends Tai, a street-wise boy, who teaches him the meaning of courage. After Tai saves him from a vicious army captain on more than one occasion, Chiko finds the courage to replace Tai as a land mine walker on a dangerous mission. The story abruptly changes voice and setting when Chiko steps on a land mine and a new character is introduced: Tu Reh, a Karreni boy who is living in a resettlement camp in Thailand after Burmese soldiers destroyed his village. Tu Reh also struggles with the concept of courage and must decide what a man would do: kill the wounded soldier (Chiko) or attempt to save his life? Jonathan Davis reads the story without fully voicing characters or using accents. Listeners will be confused when the point of view switches to Tu Reh (Davis's voice does not change) and it will take a while to get the dozen new characters straight. However, those who persevere will be rewarded with an uplifting story about this little-known struggle.—Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK

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