Michel is like many other five-year-olds: he has a loving family and spends his days going to school and playing soccer. But in 1993, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Michel and his family live, is a country in tumult. One afternoon Michel and his friends are kidnapped by rebel militants and forced to become child soldiers. Child Soldier is the sometimes heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring true story of the triumph of the human spirit.
Grades 4-7. Chikwanine describes his harrowing real-life experiences as an extremely young child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1993, rebel soldiers kidnapped five-year-old Michel and some older classmates and forced them to train as soldiers. In order to make Michel think he could never go home, they drugged and blindfolded him and, putting a rifle in his hands, made him shoot—and kill—his best friend. Even after he escaped and found his way home, danger threatened Michel’s family for years. While his experiences were horrible and violent, Davila’s subdued, approachable art shows only enough to suggest to readers what’s going on. The wide, haunted eyes of the boys will stay with the reader long after finishing the book. 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. The book also includes information on how young people can learn more and take action to prevent organizations from using child soldiers.