An ex–child soldier tells his horrifying tale, beginning with being kidnapped at the age of 5 and forced to kill his best friend.
Graphic in format but not detail, co-author Chikwanine’s narrative begins with his arrival in Canada, then flashes back to the early 1990s and happy childhood days in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These quickly end in terror as a ragged band of militia snatch him up with schoolmates, blindfold him, put a gun in his hands, and cajole him into pulling the trigger. “Your family will never take you back now. We are your only family.” He escapes and discovers otherwise, but the trauma stays with him through flight to a refugee camp in Uganda and immigration to a strange, snowy country. In her large, paneled illustrations Dávila steers clear of explicit violence, using facial expressions to convey vividly the rebels’ brutality, the shock of their child captives, and the narrator’s emotional scars. His initial impression that North America’s young people seem preoccupied by trivial concerns ultimately broadens into a hopeful note as he goes on to become a speaker and activist. Further information about his work, plus a Q-and-A about child soldiers worldwide and annotated lists of organizations and other resources close this affecting but not strident call to action.
The visual element gives this memoir particular immediacy for audiences who “don’t understand what is happening right now, to kids just like them.” (Graphic memoir. 10-14)