Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 12th : Red Hands = No More Child Soldiers


On this day, international attention is drawn to the plight of children used in military conflicts. Red Hand Day,Child Soldiers International, Amnesty International, UNICEF among several other organizations seek to eradicate the recruitment and retention of child soldiers.
 To mark this day, I’d like to direct your attention to a few books that will inform both you and your students about the lives of children living as soldiers:
They fight like soldiers, they die like children by Romeo Dallaire (355.0083 DAT 2010)
Dallaire’s first hand experiences of child soldiers comes from his time in Rwanda as commander of the UN mission during the 1994 genocide.  There can be no mistaking his passion and frustration about this issue as he outlines the conditions under which children are drawn into fighting in military conflicts.  He includes information about girls as well as boys.

A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier by Ishmael Beah (966.4 BEL 2007)
As a twelve-year old living in Sierra Leon, Ishmael’s childhood was cut short when rebel forces destroyed his village.  Struggling to survive, he was easily recruited by the army with the promise of revenge against the rebels.  His life is brutal as he is coerced into becoming a killer, until the UN extracts him from the army and sends him for rehabilitation. Suggested for grades 10 and up.

Chanda’s wars by Allan Stratton (823 ST828C3 FIC)
A young African girl, from a fictional sub-Saharan country, struggles to raise and protect her young brother and sister after their mother dies.  Chanda desperately hunts for the two kidnapped children after rebel soldiers raid their village, forcing the youngsters into their army.  This sequel to Chanda’s Secret works best with knowing the back story of the first novel.  The story here is a bit pointed but still does a good job of telling it like it is.  Suggested for grades 9 and up.

Speechless by Valerie Sherrard (823 SH557S6 FIC)
Junior high student Griffin has a problem I would have related with, all too well, when I was a young teen – the nightmare of public speaking.  Griffin will do anything to avoid it. So when best friend Bryan comes up with the idea to protest against child soldiers by taking a vow of silence Griffin is ready to go along, but unexpectedly becomes totally consumed with this cause. This lighter take on the issue draws student activism into the story quite naturally.  Suggested for grades 5-10.

War brothers by Sharon McKay (823 M1929W FIC)
Uganda, 2002: five young people (four boys, one girl) become caught up in the civil conflict between government and guerrilla armies.  Realistically portrays the brutal conditions in which the children live.  Suggested for grades 5 -9.

Many fantasy or science fiction books often feature children who act in the capacity of soldiers.  This might be another approach to this topic if the above books are too ‘real,’ or maybe use them to compare and contrast with reality.  Somehow the kids who get caught up in wars in a fantasy world don’t seem to be in the same psychological place as the kids who are actually living this kind of life.

Ender’s game by Orson Scott Card (823 C178E 1991 FIC)
Ender Wiggin’s is six-years-old when he is recruited into the military to eventually fight against invading aliens.  Gripping story.  Suggested for grades 6-9.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (823 C696M FIC)
The third book in the Hunger Games trilogy moves beyond Katniss’ own struggle for survival.  Here rebels use her and other children in various capacities in their attempt to overthrow the Capitol.  Really gripping story (well, the whole trilogy is, really).  Suggested for grades 8 and up.
Virtual war by Gloria Skurzynski (823 SK76V FIC)
In a future where groups of people live in contained bubbles and fight for resources, three young people are brought together forming a perfect team for virtual combat. Interesting characters with plenty of action.  Suggested for grades 6-9.


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