Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bamboo People (MG/YA)

Bamboo People. Mitali Perkins. 2010. July 2010. Charlesbridge. 272 pages.

Teachers wanted. Applicants must take examination in person.

Bamboo People has two narrators; each on a different side of the war; each closer to childhood than adulthood.

Chiko, who narrates the first half of the novel, is tricked into joining the Burmese army. His father, a doctor, is in prison for "resisting" the government. His mother is worried about her son. Worried that her son will be taken away from her. But she reluctantly agrees that her son should answer the ad for teachers. Her son is smart, and he would make an excellent teacher. Is it a trap? Neither know for sure. But Chiko feels he's failing his father. He feels he isn't being a man. That he's not doing a good job of providing for the family. That a real man wouldn't stay indoors and hide hoping that the trouble will pass him by. Tai is another child, another boy, taken the same time as Chiko. These two become good friends. Chiko even takes time to teach him how to read and write. Neither wants to be in the army. Neither wants to see war.

Tu Reh, our second narrator, is living in the Karenni refugee camp. He has every reason to hate the Burmese. And like so many of the others he's been taught to hate his enemy. But one day he discovers a dying soldier--someone he sees as a mere boy, a child. His first instinct is to kill. Yet something stops him from killing. Something even prompts him to pick the boy up and carry him to a healer. It isn't easy for Tu Reh, it's a decision he questions again and again. Yet he can't regret saving a life. He can't regret seeing this child-soldier as a fellow human. There is something remarkable about Tu Reh.

I loved both narrators. I loved seeing the human side of war. I think Bamboo People is a very compelling read.

It is set in contemporary times.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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