Telling a terrible truth: #GNCelebration

8 Oct


I have a penchant for non-fiction, and the increasing number of graphic non-fiction books warms my heart. These are excellent tools to expose kids to difficult or complex topics, and discover the joy of reading non-fiction.

In 1993, five-year-old Michel Chikwanine was kidnapped and forced to become a soldier in a brutal militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He tells his story in Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, written by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys, and illustrated by  Claudia Davila.


Michel’s rather brutal story is told in a way that kids could understand without being graphic. Ironic in a graphic novel. But Davila’s illustrations help the reader understand how terrifying the ideal must have been.


Narrated in the first person, the story open with Michel’s idyllic childhood as the son of a civil rights lawyer. This is sharply contrasted with the life he experienced in the camp, from which he eventually ran away, and how alienated he felt after returning to his family. Although Michel escaped the militia, his family continued to suffer. His father was arrested and he and his sisters fled the DRC eventually settling in Canada after years in a refugee camp.

One of the last things Michel’s father told him was that everyone can do something to make the world a better place. Michel has become an activist, retelling his story and working to make people aware of the plight of child soldiers all over the world. Backmatter tells more of his story after arriving in Canada and about the work he does. It also provides information about child soldiers in other parts of the world and organizations that are working on their behalf.

Pair this graphic novel with War Brothers:The Graphic Novel,  by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel LaFrance, which is  graphic novelization of McKay’s YA novel about child soldiers in Uganda.


 Both of these books tell a disturbing story in a deeply humane manner and will give kids cause to pause and think.

You can join the Nerdy Book Club’s  Graphic Novel Celebration, or read about more great graphic novels HERE.

5 Responses to “Telling a terrible truth: #GNCelebration”

  1. Tammy and Clare October 8, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    Wow – these books sound very powerful. It does seem to be a good medium to share a difficult topic with young adult readers. We will certainly check them out. Thanks for joining the celebration.
    Clare and Tammy

  2. maryleehahn October 8, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Do you think I could read this aloud to 5th graders?

    • Adrienne October 8, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

      It is intense **Spoiler alert: at 5 yrs old, Michel was blindfolded, given a gun & told to pull the trigger. He killed his friend.** It is real, and terrible, but there isn;t blood or gore.

  3. Ann Williams October 8, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    War Brothers is an incredibly intense story that is beautifully told and drawn. The art is amazing. I shared this with my son when he was in the 7th grade and it was too much for him at that time, as a 9th grader, studying world history, it was a better fit. I loved this book!

  4. ipushbooks October 8, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    Thank you for sharing–this is definitely one to look into for my junior high students. Each grade features a memoir writing unit, and I am constantly on the lookout for engaging, accessible, and thought-provoking memoirs.

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