Summary: Jacob and a couple of his friends are taken captive by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Some are forced to be soldiers; all are threatened with death if they do not obey Commander Opiro. Holding on to the hope that their parents will find a way to save them, they form a brotherhood to take care of each other until that happens. When rescue isn’t possible, they decide to try and find a way to save themselves, and a girl named Hannah they meet at the camp.
Number of Pages: 176
Age Range: 13-14
Review: I liked the visual cues of the black and white pages – black for scenes with the LRA and white for scenes without them. Because it’s a story dealing with serious issues and some graphic violence, it was helpful to know when those scenes were eventually coming to an end.
But I couldn’t help but realise that it wasn’t just a story Sharon McKay made up. Children are forced into being child soldiers in Africa, forced to kill to eat, and mutilated if they disobey. It’s incredibly frightening because I know it is real, and I thought McKay and Daniel Lafrance did a fine job of making the stories of child soldiers accessible to younger teen readers without making it too overwhelming. As with any child/teen fictional book about real life atrocities, there is a delicate balance in providing the right amount and quality of information on the subject.
Because I am an older reader though, I found that reading the graphic novel version of War Brothers made me want to read the novel it was based on for more information. I’m going to see if I can fit it into my list.
“‘In each of us there is the possibility to be a beast, but also there is the possibility to reach the stars.'” – quote from Eleanor Roosevelt from War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel Lafrance, unpaged
“‘Listen to me. The army, our fathers, they will come. We have to stay together. We have to try to keep each other safe. We are brothers. We are family.'” – Jacob from War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel Lafrance, unpaged