Despite the flip title, a harsh picture of civil war in Liberia as seen through the eyes of two children.
Marked by sudden violence and a pervasive sense of uncertainty, the alternating accounts of Nopi, 10 at the beginning, and her little brother Lucky, take both children through eight years of brutal treatment as the two are snatched out of school by soldiers and forced to fight. Ultimately the two survive, scarred by their experiences (and left deaf from a beating, in Nopi’s case) but perhaps not permanently damaged, and they are joyfully reunited with their parents. De Graaf bases her episodic, present-tense narratives on interviews with Liberian children and adds an informational appendix with photos that not only lays out Liberia’s troubled history (up to 2006, when the original Dutch edition of the book was published) but also includes upbeat drawings and letters from young survivors.
“I wonder if there’s a place for my story in your world,” writes Nopi. Stories like this at least help to ensure that there are. (map, websites) (Historical fiction. 11-13)