a pain so deep…the life of a child soldier

child soldier cover imageChild Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine, illustrated by Claudia Dávila
published in 2015 by Kids Can Press

There is no shortage of terrible realities to mourn in our world, but one of the bitterest must surely be the use of child soldiers.

Some subjects are almost too painful to look at, and for me, this is one of them, but look we must if we would respond with humanity, justice, generosity towards the precious victims of such abominable crimes.

child soldier interior2 humphreys, chikwanine, and davila

double click on image for a larger view

Michel Chikwanine was kidnapped and brutally forced to become a child soldier when he was just 5 years old, living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His heartbreaking, courageous account of captivity with the rebel militia is here to open our eyes to the needs of all such children.

child soldier interior3 humphreys, chikwanine, and davila

This book is Michel’s story, told in graphic novel format, of his happy early years, his traumatic time under rebel control, his escape, and the nearly-impossible task of reestablishing a sense of normalcy. In the years following his abduction, Michel’s home and community were torn apart by the ongoing violence. Michel and several family members were eventually able to take refuge in Canada, where he now lives.

child soldier interior humphreys, chikwanine, and davila

One important reason for Michel’s story to be told just now, at this moment in time, is the message of insulation and callous indifference being voiced even as overwhelming numbers of traumatized refugees flee unspeakable violence in their homelands. ISIS gloats over their use of child soldiers. If I were a mother in that region, I would do anything, anything, to get my children out of their reach. I challenge you: read Michel’s account, and then consider what it means to relegate these desperate people to a life of such appalling danger.

Additional material in the book includes statistics and further information about the use of child soldiers around the world, what is being done to help, and how you can take action.

Michel Chikwanine

Michel Chikwanine

This is not a book for young children. I might suggest ages 12 and up. It would be a good book to read together with your kids. While it is painful, it also provides rich insights and introduces us to an incredible hero — an endurer. We are definitely the richer for hearing his story.

Another terrific entry in the Citizen Kids collection from Kids Can Press. Thank you, Canada.