________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 3 . . . . September 18, 2015


Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War. (CitizenKid).

Jessica Dee Humphreys & Michael Chikwanine. Illustrated by Claudia Dávila.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2015.
48 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77138-126-0.

Subject Headings:
Chikwanine, Michel-Childhood and youth-Comic books, strips, etc.
Chikwanine, Michel-Childhood and youth-Juvenile literature.
Child soldiers-Congo (Democratic Republic)-Comic books, strips, etc.
Child soldiers-Congo (Democratic Republic)-Juvenile literature.
Congo (Democratic Republic)-History-1997-Comic books, strips, etc.
Congo (Democratic Republic)-History-1997-Juvenile literature.
Children and war-Comic books, strips, etc.
Children and war-Juvenile literature.
Graphic novels.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Todd Kyle.

**** /4



Peering through the airport window, I watched the white flakes floating gently through the dark sky.

We'd finally arrived in North America. I'd been told the streets here were so clean you could walk outside in your socks. I had hoped to try it as soon as we landed, but the pilot said it was 42 degrees below zero outside. I wondered how people survived here.

Then I looked up at the snow softly falling. There were no bullets. There were no bombs.

I felt happy again. It had been a long, long time.

Five-year-old Michel Chikwanine, living a sheltered and relatively privileged life in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1993, is abducted with a group of boys as they play soccer after school. Forcibly inducted into a rebel militia, Michel is brutalized, forced to kill, psychologically tortured, and cut off completely from his family and the life he knows. Becoming one of legions of child soldiers in war spots around the world, Michel finally escapes undetected during a village raid and makes his way home to his village. Reintegration is difficult, and he is discouraged from talking about his experiences. When rebels invade his family's home, destroying documents his father, a human rights lawyer, has collected about them, the family escapes to northern Uganda, eventually making it to Canada as refugees.

      Part of the enlightening series "Citizen Kid", Child Soldier combines the immediacy of graphic fiction, a compelling life story that young people can relate to, and a factual backdrop about the history of the DRC from Belgian colonial times to the often-forgotten conflict sometimes known as "Africa's World War". It isn't quite a graphic novel as it has a fair amount of text told in narrative boxes, and few dialogue bubbles, but it takes full advantage of the medium to appeal to young readers while simultaneously not hiding the horror and brutality of Michel's abduction and of the war. The narration is clear, forthright, and in an authentic voice, occasionally slightly textbookish in describing the history, but always interesting.

      Claudia Dávila's illustration is ideal for this true story. In full colour, people are somewhat cartoon-like and stylized, with high contrasts and a minimum of shading, yet they manage to be evocative and dignified, respecting the setting in the same way as Dávila's "Luz" series does with her native South American culture. The palette is muted shades of browns, greens, and yellows, making the colourful attire of Michel's mother all the more striking.

      Chikwanine's story ends with a powerful transition to the present day in which he recalls his father's inspiring words and talks of his mission to tell his story, as he presently does as a public speaker. At the end is a backgrounder on child soldiers, a list of resources, and suggestions for youth on how they can make a difference. Combining the best aspects of storytelling and facts to enlighten and inspire the reader, Child Soldier is an important book that will find a ready readership.

Highly Recommended.

Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.

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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