Children of War by Deborah Ellis
September 6, 2010 in Book Club Possibility, Books With Social Studies Content, Elementary Educators, Ellis Deborah, Genocide, Helping Girls and Women Around the World, Making Personal Connections, Middle Grade Novel, Middle School Teachers, multicultural books Tags: books about refugees, Deborah Ellis, Helping Children in the World, Helping Refugees, immigrants
“A refugee’s life is never an easy one, but it’s especially tough on young people who are robbed of what should be the most formative, promising, and exciting years of their lives. At a time when they should be full of hopes and dreams for the future, they are instead faced with the harsh reality of displacement and privation. . .”
–United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
What I like about this book for middle grade readers is that it gives a voice to the war that students are always hearing about on television–especially in political news lately since the Obama administration is working to get troops out of Iraq. Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees isn’t about soldiers or political agendas or terrorists or presidents–it’s about the innocent victims of any war–children. I also like that this book, like last Monday’s book: Our New Home: Immigrant Children Speak , let’s the children’s voices be heard. The children and teens are telling their own stories.
In Children of War by Deborah Ellis, the author also gives some background to readers before each child’s essay/story, so that readers can understand important issues in the child’s story. For example, in the first story in the book from Hibba, 16, it is important for readers to understand that Islam is divided into different groups just like the Christian religion is (Catholic, Protestant, etc). Two of the Islam groups are Sunni and Shia. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim. In Hibba’s case, her mother is Sunni. Her father is Shia, and they are applying to live in the United States. Readers learn all of this information from Ellis’s introduction. Then, you hear Hibba’s story in her own words–about fleeing to Jordan, about her father being kidnapped and killed, about applying for asylum in the United States. Powerful stuff–especially for middle grade readers.
Here’s a quote from R, 18, that I think says a lot to children and adults. R. is an Iraqi Kurdish teenager living in Canada. He says: “When Canadian kids–the ones who have always been here and have a good life–start complaining to me about the little things that bother them, I just think, ‘You have no idea.’ ” And he lets you know what it’s like for him to be a refugee in his own words. Again–powerful stuff.
Books like Children of War by Deborah Ellis need to be shared with children of all ages. It takes education and understanding to solve these problems that war has created, to break down racial barriers, and to have sympathy/empathy for other people. These are stories of survival from the youngest victims. They can give anyone strength and hope.