Saturday, December 28, 2013

War Brothers

War Brothers, by Sharon McKay, and artwork by Daniel LaFrance
 Book Description:
"Jacob is a 14-year-old Ugandan who is sent away to a boys' school. Once there, he assures his friend Tony that they need not be afraid -- they will be safe. But not long after, in the shadow of the night, the boys are abducted. Marched into the jungle, they are brought to an encampment of the feared rebel soldiers. They are told they must kill or be killed, and their world turns into a terrifying struggle to endure and survive.

In time, the boys escape. Hunted by the rebels, stalked by a lion, and even pursued by river crocs, they miraculously succeed in reaching safety. However, it is no longer enough. Jacob wrestles with the question of whether we are all really beasts inside. He decides the way through the pain is to record his story.

Daniel Lafrance's powerful, striking, and poignant artwork and the crisp, evocative text vividly capture the haunting experiences of a young boy caught in a brutal war.

This graphic novel is based on an award-winning YA novel by Sharon McKay. Sharon has spent time with child soldiers and based this story on real-life accounts."


Angie's Review:

This isn't my usual type of comic. This is not a fantasy, but it is a horror story.

A lot of you may be familiar with Kony, from the movie that went around the internet a while back. This graphic novel tackles the subject of the Lord's Resistance Army and the children who are abducted and forced into battle. This is probably far more terrifying than any vampire or monster story you could ever read. 
It begins with a group of boys who are taken. Some break quickly and are willing to fight. If you fight, then you can have food. If you fight then you won't have your limbs cut off. So, naturally some children agree. Jacob does not, but that just means that he will go hungry and that he is expendable. 

You meet Hannah, a girl who attempted escape, and had her ears cut off for her attempt. And you see the other, very young girls in the camp...carrying soldier's babies. And all of these events and characters in this story are based on interviews with real children who survived these horrors.

Despite all of this, the graphic novel is not that graphic. There is really not blood and gore, no nudity, no foul language...they try to keep the content appropriate for teens. But the topics, of course, are disturbing, and you should consider your own child and determine if you think they are ready for something like this. There is value in exposing kids to these sorts of works. It gives you an opportunity to talk about the darker side of human nature, the dangers of fanaticism, and the central question of -are all people capable of terrible violence if pushed? Can you really blame a child who becomes a murderer out of necessity to survive? For parents or teachers, this could be a valuable tool to discuss these difficult subjects.

Regardless of why you read it- child or adult- this one will stick with you. The ending is sort of happy, but all of these children are changed forever, and you wonder if any of the characters would be okay if you checked in on them 10, 20 years later. And that's what is sad. Somewhere, in real life, a child is dealing with this same struggle. Trying to forgive themselves, wondering if they can...and we don't really know what will become of them in the long run. We hope they will heal. Only time can tell.

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