Monday, January 25, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? 1/25/16

Thank you to SheilaJen and Kellee for inspiring and hosting the #IMWAYR meme.

Graphic novels are hugely popular amongst my upper elementary students.  I love them for the way that they equalize voracious and struggling readers and give all kids access to wonderful stories.  This past week I read a graphic novel that is really unlike any other that I've seen.  

Child Solder: When Boys and Girls are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine, Jessica Dee Humphreys, and Claudia Davila is the very powerful and personal story of Michel, who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I had been hearing about this book, and read reviews that suggested it was appropriate for elementary-aged readers, but I was skeptical.  The title alone, Child Solider, was a little bit off-putting for me, as a children's librarian.  But, I'm so glad I received a copy from NetGalley and gave this book a read anyway.

Child Soldier is a powerful, but surprisingly kid-appropriate look at a horrible reality. This book will not be for everyone - sensitive readers will be impacted by both the text and the illustrations, but the story is told gently and I think that for many kids it will be eye-opening but not traumatizing. 

Chikwanine was five years old when he was kidnapped by a rebel army and forced to become a child soldier.  There is no sugarcoating his horrific experience, which included being forced to use cocaine and commit murder, but neither the text nor the illustrations in this book are gratuitous.  The illustrations often show the expressions on Michel's face, rather than the atrocities he witnesses, which softens the blow for readers a bit.  The book includes extensive back matter which provides additional information and context about the plight of child soldiers globally.

This is not an easy read, but it is an important one and I think there is a large audience for it.  I would hesitate to hand it to some children to read on their own without the opportunity to follow up with questions and discussions, but hopefully Chikwanine's story will lead to just that - greater understanding, and greater dialogue about one of our world's most shameful realities. 


  1. Definitely sounds like a powerful and challenging read. I agree with your thoughts on making sure kids are supported when they read difficult books like this - it's so important that they have an adult they trust available for them to ask questions and get more information.

  2. I agree that this is a powerful graphic novel. While the graphic novel portion is troubling, I think the real meat in the story is in those notes at the back of the book.

  3. It's the first I'm hearing of this title - I shall definitely add this in my to-find list - I hope we have it in our libraries here in Singapore.