Title: Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War
Author(s): Michel Chikwanine & Jessica Dee Humphreys
Artist(s): Claudia Davila
Category: Biographical, War
Grade Level(s): 4-8
Mature Content?: Violence, Implied Rape
Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War brings Michel Chikwanine’s story to life as an easy to understand graphic novel. At 5 years old, Michel was an average Congolese boy, interested in soccer and attending school. After school one day, he was captured outside of his home town in the Democratic Republic of Congo, forced to take up arms for a rebel group, and turned into a child soldier. During a raid on a town, he escaped, and, after time as a refugee, part of his family made it to Canada. Michel has since become an educator and public speaker about child soldiers.
Michel’s tale is fascinating in that its written in a way elementary and middle schoolers can comprehend. Unlike War Brothers, the violence, while there, is kept at a moderate distant. Michel only references the death he enacts and never steps close enough to show the graphic experience. Michel also takes the time to offer analysis of gender roles and politics in slightly darker boxes of narration. Drawing attention to these can provide an excellent jumping off point to questions that connect Michel’s world to the West and modern progressive ideals. They only really appear during the introduction, before Michel is abducted, but this also allows the gravity of Michel’s experience to stand on its own. Because Child Soldier is published by an educational organization and was written with education in mind, there are a surprising number of resources available.