Child Soldier by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanie

Child Soldier book cover: Image of trees with the silhouettes of children walking among them carrying various backpacks and cargo"The story you are about to read is true. It is my story, and it is just one of thousands like it."

This autobiographic graphic novel tells a haunting tale, albeit one that has a happier ending than most of its kind. The majority of the story takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Michel was kidnapped from the schoolyard at age 5, and "trained" to be a child soldier. The story does not gloss over what child soldiers are forced to do and the psychological trauma the children are exposed to during training. Michel is able to escape, and the experience inspires Michel's father into becoming an activist. "This is what defines you: The legacy that you leave, not just for your family but for the whole world." Michel and his family become refugees, though only Michel, his mother and two sisters eventually settle in safety of Canada.

For its sobering but edifying content, this book is recommended to third grade readers all the way to adult. The book makes clear that, "these events did not occur out of the blue and won't suddenly happen to you." However, mid-elementary readers might benefit from an adult reading buddy to answer any questions that might arise. For older readers, this book provides great insight to the political unrest in Africa and the effect it has on children and families. This book might serve as an introduction to not only child soldiers but also the international refugee plight.

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Celeste, Kids World