Child Soldier is one of our nonfiction book club books for older members.
It is a biography of Michel Chikwanine. When he was five years old he was abducted by rebel forces in The Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to be a child soldier. Luckily, he managed to escape, but his experiences scarred him. From this narrative, we learn about his life before, during, and after this event. We learn how the situation in his country of origin deteriorated so much that this kind of activity became almost commonplace.
His father was an activist who spoke against the corruption and lies of governments and rebel forces. Eventually he was kidnapped by them but managed to escape. Then the soldiers came to Michel's home. The family survived, but were forced to flee from their homes. Eventually they connected up with their father at a refugee camp. It wasn't until six years later that Michel, his mother and younger sister, were allowed to come to Canada. His father was poisoned and one of his other sisters disappeared before they could bring her over to be with them.
Life here in Canada was difficult. They had to work hard to survive financially. But it was also difficult to understand that it wasn't that people here didn't care, it was that they didn't understand what is going on in other parts of the world.
This book goes a long way to remedying this.
There are some people who think books in graphic form are simple. They are wrong. This book is one of many being published these days that show us that graphic representation of challenging material makes it much more accessible and profound. Claudia Davila's brilliant illustrations capture the innocence of Michel's younger days, the beauty of his homeland, and the darkness of the days that followed.
I appreciated the end section that tells us more about Michel's life here. Following that is more information about what it means to be a child soldier and even suggestions for what students here can do about it.
I'm leaving you with a few facts from this book:
"an estimated 250,000 children under the age of 18 are currently serving in government armed forces or armed rebel groups.
Of that number, it is estimated that over 40% are girls. "
I envision some profound conversations about this one in book club.
I hope you are motivated to read the book and find out what you can do about it.