Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War

Dávila, Claudia (Illustrator)
Kids Can Press 2015. 48 pages
First published: 2015
Series: CitizenKid
ISBN: 9781771381260 (hardcover)
9781771386289 (e-book)
Original language: English
Dewey: 355
Book type: Non-Fiction

Text Elements:

conflict, setting

Awards

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction – Finalist – 2016
The Forest of Reading – The Red Maple Award (Non-Fiction) Winner – 2017

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

A Congolese boy, Michel Chikwanine, is playing soccer with his friends one day when he is kidnapped by militia and taken away, along with his playmates. He is forced to kill his best friend; the boys face “threats, drugs, amputations, killings—and worse. They called it training.” Michel is five years old. He manages to escape, but his family can’t escape the growing unrest. The family, torn apart by kidnapping and torture, are reunited in a refugee camp. Michel, his mother and his younger sister are eventually accepted as refugees in Canada where, as he adapts to North American life, Michel increasingly speaks out about child soldiers. Though nothing can reclaim the childhood of a boy who has been forced to kill, Michel finds strength in sharing his story and raising awareness.

The narrative includes maps and explanations of Congolese history, of the country’s civil war, and of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. Set up in graphic format, the illustrated panels feature Michel, his friends and his family in moments that are by turns light—joking about American excess around a campfire in the refugee camp—and quite dark, as when Michel is forced, at gunpoint, to watch as soldiers are “holding my mother and sisters down on the living room floor.” The panels, of varying sizes and layouts, feature warm browns and greens, with splashes of colour.

The book includes several pages of context: biographical details about Chikwanine, information and resources for further research about child soldiers, and possible avenues for support, both globally and individually.

  •  

    Discuss what you think it would mean to become a child soldier.

  •  

    Read the first page and discuss the difference between surviving -42° temperatures and surviving in a war.

  •  

    Becoming a child soldier led Michel to say that he lost his childhood. Describe what Michel lost and how you feel about each of these losses.

  •  

    His father’s words inspired Michel to speak out: “If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.” In your reader-writer’s notebook, describe a personal experience, or something that you have read or seen, that recounts a small action that made a big difference.

  •  

    Read the information section at the end. List key pieces of information. Make a poster that highlights these points and, below them, summarize your thoughts.

  •  Discuss what you think it would mean to become a child soldier.
  •  Compare Michel’s life before and after he was caught by the rebels. Use a graphic organizer to sort your thoughts.
  •  Becoming a child soldier led Michel to say that he lost his childhood. Describe what Michel lost and how you feel about each of these losses.
  •  

    Discuss how this story helps you see refugees coming to our country in a new light.

  •  

    This very serious story is presented in a comic book/graphic novel format. How did that help you understand this difficult subject?

  •  

    Before reading, view a teacher-selected video clip of Michel Chikwanine. Take notes during a second viewing. Discuss.

  •  

    Create a Venn Diagram to show the differences and similarities between Michel’s life (in the Democratic Republic of Congo) and yours. Do a class walk-around to share and discuss these.

  •  You are a journalist at Michel’s high school in Canada. Write an article for the school newspaper to inform students and staff about his story.
  •  

    Get inspired by the suggestions at the back of the book regarding child soldiers. Pick one idea and get involved.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Social Sciences