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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Speechless, written by Valerie Sherrard. Boardwalk Book, Dundurn. 2007.$12.99 ages

"For an opening line, you definitely want to start with a tear-jerker. Okay, here it is: Picture yourself sitting with your family, sharing a meal, talking about everyday things, when suddenly your door is kicked open and men with guns rush in."

This is a fact of life for families of child soldiers and Griffin learns much about them and the fate that awaits these children in countries at war. He didn not know that his not wanting to deliver a speech would result in this learning, but his actions lead him there.

Griffin is the first person narrator of his own school and family story. It's junior high and one of his assignments  is to prepare and deliver a speech to his classmates. Griffin is one of the quiet ones in his middle grade class and the thought of making that speech fills with with terror. He wracks his brain trying to find a way to avoid such personal exposure. In the end, he decides to become 'speechless' in support of a cause. The problem is, he doesn't really know what that cause is.

It soon becomes clear that there needs to be a 'real' reason for whatever choice he does make. When he and his friend Bryan are surfing the web, Bryan hits upon an idea:

"I think we've got it, " he said. "Here, in the Amnesty International site, there's a story about kids in the army."

It seems a good reason for a protest. He has no real appreciation for the plight of the child soldiers until he starts to do research for an essay that has been assigned in lieu of the speech. As he learns more and more about these children, he begins to feel a strong social responsibility to make a real difference. Where that leads makes for an absorbing and fast paced story.

So much changes for Griffin and his family as the protest plays itself out. As readers we come to know Griffin, his family, friends and fears. He learns about the world, some of its injustices and he learns a lot about himself as his protest becomes a powerful agent for change...starting with just one

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