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Acker, Alison.

Toronto, Between the Lines, c1986. 168pp, paper, ISBN 0-919946-66-6 (cloth) $19.95, 0-919946-67-4 (paper) $8.95. CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

Children of the Volcano is a candid account of everyday life in Central America as seen and experienced by children and youths born and living in those countries to-day. Alison Acker teaches English literature at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto. She has worked as a journalist and since 1980 has been active in the Central American Solidarity Network. In 1984, Acker travelled widely in Central America, armed with her camera and tape recorder and, driven by an insatiable curiosity, she roamed through Guatemala, El Salvador. Honduras, and Nicaragua. From the capital cities she pushed her way into other parts of the countries: small villages, refugee camps, and other types of institutions and organizations in order to find out firsthand what life is really like for the droves of children and youths who live with poverty, unrest, and war every day of their lives. She interviewed many young people ranging in age from seven to twenty-five. Each interview was conducted in Spanish and recorded in shorthand; tapes were used only with the full consent of the interviewee.

This brave and very timely little book consists of four parts, each devoted to one of the four countries Acker visited. Three other parts complete the book: a short preface, an informative introduction, and a thoughtful conclusion. Most interviews are a couple of pages in length and are presented in a narrative style rather than the expected question and answer exchange. A picture of the person interviewed accompanies the script, in most cases. This welcome addition adds to the story by making it more personal and meaningful.

The reader is presented with straightforward accounts of young people's lives-children who are never really children. Born to a life of sickness, hunger, and day-long labour, these children are shown to bear their suffering with determination, acceptance, and hope. They have no time to play. It may come as a surprise to learn that there are eleven million children in the four Central American countries combined. "Children outnumber adults almost three to one," writes Acker, "but this book is not a story of too many children, rather it is a story of child neglect and abuse, a story of war against the innocent, of people trying to satisfy basic needs."

In total contrast with the rest is the interview with Eva Eugenia, Miss Central America and Vice-President of El Salvador's major drug company. "It is amazing how easily you can get used to the tragic effects of war," she stated, in perfect English, "you even get used to seeing dead bodies in the streets. I try to do my best by raising money for the soldiers to buy wheelchairs." I recommend this thought-provoking book for anyone who wants an introductory overview of the realities of everyday life in the four Central American countries so often highlighted in the news. Although Children of the Volcano is easy to read, its message is strong and our children and youths need to hear it.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake, S.S., Elliot Lake, Ont.
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