Child Soldier

Child Soldier

When Boys and Girls Are Used in War

Book - 2015
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Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his schoolyard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world, and this book is part of that effort. Told in the first person and presented in a graphic novel format, the gripping story of Michel's experience is moving and unsettling. But the humanity he exhibits in the telling, along with Claudia Dávila's illustrations, which evoke rather than depict the violent elements of the story, makes the book accessible for this age group and, ultimately, reassuring and hopeful. The back matter contains further information, as well as suggestions for ways children can help. This is a perfect resource for engaging youngsters in social studies lessons on global awareness and social justice issues, and would easily spark classroom discussions about conflict, children's rights and even bullying. Michel's actions took enormous courage, but he makes clear that he was and still is an ordinary person, no different from his readers. He believes everyone can do something to make the world a better place, and so he shares what his father told him: If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito ...
Publisher: Toronto, Canada : Kids Can Press, 2015
ISBN: 9781771381260
Branch Call Number: 355.0083 Hu
Description: 47 pages : chiefly color illustrations ; 24 cm
Audience: For ages 10-14
Additional Contributors: Dávila, Claudia
Chikwanine, Michel


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JCLPeggyH Oct 21, 2015

This is the true story of Michel Chikwanine. Michel grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990's. There was tremendous conflict in the country at that time, as there had been for decades. The village that Michel lived in had been relatively safe, but things were changing quickly. One day in 1993, Michel disobeyed his father's stern instructions to come quickly and directly home from school. Instead, Michel stayed to play a game of soccer. Military vehicles pulled up to the playground, shots ensued and the children were taken by military rebels to be trained as child soldiers. Michel was just five years old.

Michel did manage to escape a few weeks later, but not until after he had been injected with cocaine, smacked in the face with a gun and forced to kill his best friend. It didn't end there; there were many more horrors that he witnessed and experienced in those weeks and after. Today Michel lives in Canada and is a peace activist, motivational speaker, and now an author.

I find myself saying more and more frequently, "I am not a fan of the graphic format, BUT ..." Perhaps it's time for me to re-evaluate my feelings toward reading graphic books. I believe the graphic format was a perfect choice for this book. The characters' expressions, the close-ups, and the unique perspectives in the pictures all contribute to deepening the sense of terror and conveying the horror of the situation, without overwhelming young readers with graphic or gratuitous gore.

I appreciated that his opening paragraph included the following statement: "...these things did not occur out of the blue and won't suddenly happen to you ..." It frees the young person reading it from becoming twisted with fear for themselves.

There are a couple of maps and simple, easy to read background history blocks. At the end of the story, Michel has included some biographical information on his life after arriving in Canada, additional information on child soldiers, and a list of organizations that are working for change. He includes suggestions on how young people can help make a difference and a primary sources section for further research.

Michel's story is horrifying and inspiring. This story will stick with you long after you have finished it. Highly recommended for older elementary and younger middle school students.


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