________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 25 . . . . March 10, 2017


One Thousand Hills.

James Roy & Noel Zihabamwe.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2017.
229 pp., trade pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-5760-5.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Kay Weisman.

*** /4



What was your second question?

Oh, yes. It's about the priests. How could they do such a thing?

Not all of them did. Lots of priests and nuns helped protect Tutsi people. People from other churches, too. But the ones like Father Michel—do you know what they said when they were asked? "We are Hutu first, we are Catholic second."

That's … awful. Terrible. I'm so sorry, Pascal.

Sometimes I get very sad when I think about it. But at least some of my family are alive. Many people lost everyone.

That's true. So, Pascal, I need to ask one final question, if I may. This whole process—talking to me about what happened—has it been useful?

For me?

Of course, for you. Have you found the whole experience useful?

For me, or for you?

I'm sorry, I don't understand. You were sent to talk to me. Why would I
find it useful?

Well, does it make you feel better? Or worse?

Better or worse about what?

About what happened. Everyone in the world heard about what was happening in Rwannda, but they didn't do anything. Nothing. They just let it happen.

Five years after leaving his home country, teenaged Pascal describes for a school counselor the details of his life in Rwanda leading up to his flight. In 1994, 10-year-old Pascal lives with his parents, older brother, and younger sister in Agabande, Northern Rwanda. Pascal's family is well-off by local standards: his father works for the government, he attends school with his siblings, and the family owns a water tank that provides fresh water without having to carry it from a stream. His parents try to protect Pascal from grownup worries, but even he can tell that something is wrong. The radio is full of messages about killing "cockroaches"; his teacher is so upset that she cancels class; and Pascal receives numerous warnings from neighbors and a local priest to go home, shut the door, and stay safe. Eventually soldiers and gangs of men with machetes appear, slaughtering over 800,000 Rwandan people in 100 days.

Roy and Zihabamwe have collaborated to tell a fictional story that contains elements of truth from Zihabamwe's own past. Pascal is a likeable protagonist—full of spunk and fun, but he's also strong in his Catholic faith. That this innocent child is completely betrayed by people he trusts implicitly will shock young readers, as will the details of the genocidal carnage that Pascal observes. The authors wisely use the device of the counselor to periodically bring readers out of this difficult story into the safety of the later time, helping to reassure them that, despite these horrors, Pascal does survive.

      A difficult but important story, One Thousand Hills is a book that will benefit from the presence of a nearby adult ready to answer the many questions this narrative will generate.


Kay Weisman works as a youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library and chairs the Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada's Information Book Award.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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