Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 10 to 14
- Grade: 5 to 9
- Reading age: 10 to 14
Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his school-yard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world, and this book is part of that effort. Told in the first person and presented in a graphic novel format, the gripping story of Michel's experience is moving and unsettling. But the humanity he exhibits in the telling, along with Claudia Dávila's illustrations, which evoke rather than depict the violent elements of the story, makes the book accessible for this age group and, ultimately, reassuring and hopeful. The back matter contains further information, as well as suggestions for ways children can help. This is a perfect resource for engaging youngsters in social studies lessons on global awareness and social justice issues, and would easily spark classroom discussions about conflict, children's rights and even bullying. Michel's actions took enormous courage, but he makes clear that he was and still is an ordinary person, no different from his readers. He believes everyone can do something to make the world a better place, and so he shares what his father told him: “If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”
About the authors
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Michel Chikwanine has experienced civil war, political upheaval and poverty, emerging as an individual wise beyond his years. Forced by these circumstances to leave his home country at the age of 11 as a refugee, Michel has since traveled to 35 African countries, witnessing firsthand the problems faced by the developing world, but also the beauty of the communities and people who live there.@michelchikwan
Jessica Dee Humphreys has worked with several girls' rights organizations, including Save the Children and the United Nations Development Fund for Women. She is the co-author of a number of bestselling books, including Roméo Dallaire's Waiting for First Light and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children. Jessica is also the co-author of the award-winning CitizenKid graphic novel Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, with Michel Chikwanine. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
CLAUDIA DÁVILA a été directrice artistique des magazines Chirp et ChickaDEE, en plus d’être l’auteure-illustratrice de la série de bandes dessinées primées The Future According to Luz et de l’album Super Red Riding Hood. Elle a également illustré l’ouvrage percutant et multi récompensé Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War de Michel Chikwanine et Jessica Dee Humphreys, ainsi que Viminy Crowe’s Comic Book de Marthe Jocelyn et Richard Scrimger. Claudia est née à Santiago, au Chili, et vit maintenant à Toronto avec sa famille.
Claudia Dávila is the former art director of Chirp and chickaDEE magazines, and is the author-illustrator of the award-winning graphic novel series The Future According to Luz and the picture book Super Red Riding Hood. Claudia illustrated the powerful and multi-award-winning book Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys, Viminy Crowe's Comic Book by Marthe Jocelyn and Richard Scrimger and The Canadian Kids Guide to Outdoor Fun by Helaine Becker. Claudia was born in Santiago, Chile, and lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children.
- Short-listed, Non-Fiction Award, Grand Canyon Reader Awards
- Winner, Red Maple Non-Fiction Award, Ontario Library Association
- Short-listed, Golden Oak Award, Ontario Library Association
- Long-listed, ALSC Notable Children's Books - 2016 (Older Readers), American Library Association
- Short-listed, Best Publication for Kids, Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards
- Short-listed, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction , Fleck Family Foundation
- Winner, Information Book Award - Honour Book, Children's Literature Roundtable of Canada
- Short-listed, 2016 Book of the Year for Children Award, Canadian Library Association
- Long-listed, 2016/2017 Children's Choice Book Award, Hackmatack
- Winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred , Canadian Children's Book Centre
- Short-listed, The Dragon Award, The Joe Shuster Awards
- Winner, Honor Book, Skipping Stones
- Long-listed, 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, YALSA
- Winner, Best Bets Junior Non-Fiction, Ontario Library Association
... the direct first-person narration lays bare the boy's confusion and pain ...[while] Dávila's panel sequences temper the story's atrocities ...
An unforgettable book that provides factual information about civil wars and especially child soldiers.
Graphic in format but not detail ...The visual element gives this memoir particular immediacy for audiences who "don't understand what is happening right now, to kids just like them."
... an eye-opening and heartbreaking account of Chikwanine's kidnapping at the age of five.
Quill & Quire
An enlightening, accessible, and, above all, child-friendly introduction to the issue.
School Library Journal, Starred Review
The narration includes enough history of the Congo to give context to the personal story, while the back matter provides more information about child soldiers.
... Child Soldier conveys Michel's horrific experience with sensitivity, insight, and skill ... also providing readers with relevant information about the geography and history of the country.
Quill & Quire, Starred Review
Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in WarMichel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his schoolyard in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world.
Michel Chikwanine’s heroic escape from the rebel militia and the challenges he faced to make a new life for himself in Canada can help build readers’ understanding of and empathy for those caught in political upheavals. Told in graphic format, the narration, dialogue, and illustrated panels highlight the plight of one child soldier. Information at the back of the book provides some additional information and statistics about young people forced into armed war. Moreover, the text invites students to consider what they can do about such harrowing injustice.
Also available: This Child, Every Child by David J. Smith
This author is available for class visits. @michelchikwan
Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.