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.
Chikwanine, who was abducted by a rebel militia at age five and now works as a public speaker and activist, describes a childhood filled with horrors, heartbreak, and hope growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s. Writing with Humphreys, he begins with a capsule history of the region's instabilities before moving on to his early life in the city of Beni; his father was a human rights lawyer, while his mother sold fish and fabric at the market. After Chikwanine and some friends are abducted during an after-school soccer game, the direct first-person narration lays bare the boy's confusion and pain: "Every day was hard and terrible, filled with fear, torture and death." D vila's panel sequences temper the story's atrocities, but only slightly: readers see the sandal-clad foot of the friend Chikwanine was forced to kill; elsewhere, bodies hang from trees while he is shown holding a rifle as large as he is. Chikwanine escaped the rebels not long after, but his family's troubles were just beginning. Back matter provides extensive information about the use of child soldiers worldwide. Ages 5 8.