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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Children of War, written by Deborah Ellis. Groundwood, 2009. $16.95 ages 10 and up

"We have come to Jordan because of all
the killing. My grandmother lives here with us.
She has a bullet in her leg. She was shot, and
the bullet went in but it didn't come out. It's
still there. She has an x-ray of her leg and you
can see where the bullet is. It hurts her, and
she complains about pain in her bones. But
she doesn't complain too much. She doesn't
want to make us sad."

I so admire Deborah Ellis for her writing, her passion for her stories and her political activism concerning peace and the rights of human beings everywhere. Her books inspire others to support those whose plight is so eloquently described there. She tells her readers about children who live in unbelievably harsh conditions and gives those children a voice and perhaps even hope for better things to come.

Her research has taken her to Palestine and Israel, to Afghanistan and Africa, and to Jordan where she talked with Iraqi children whose lives are forever changed by choices made by others.  In her books we meet some of the many who have been damaged by war and conflict. Too often we do not hear what they have to say and share with us.  In this book, she offers glimpses into the lives of a small number of refugee children, a tiny microcosm of the nearly five million people who have been displaced by war in Iraq. In gathering research Deborah Ellis went to Jordan because it was easier to get into that country. Interviews were conducted with interpreters present to help with translation. Despite the sadness of that journey and the effects of war on so many lives, she has an abiding belief:

"I believe that we can create a world without war. One of the steps we can take is to fully understand the impact of our decisions on the world's most vulnerable - our children."

These vignettes are shared in the words of the children who are victims of the conflict in Iraq. Through them, we see the human toll taken as these narrartors deal with their everyday lives and the effects of the fighting there. There are so many issues that impact the children and no easy solution for those things that concern them.

Here are Hibba's words:

"People watch war in movies and they think they know what it is like. They don't know. If they knew, they wouldn't allow it to happen. Only very sick, bad people would want to make war."

And Michael, who is 12:

"I have nothing in  common with American children, except if there is maybe an American child whose father has died, whose house is destroyed, and who is forced to live in a foreign country that doesn't want them. Then he and I would have something to talk about."

Or Masim, 15:

"So we are all smart people, and should have good futures ahead of us, but so much seems to be beyond our control. My mother doesn't have an independent income, and my stepfather is unstable. We are one tantrum away from being thrown out and having nowhere to live."

Is there hope? Can we learn? Understanding has to be the first step.

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