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Son of a Gun    by Anne de Graaf order for
Son of a Gun
by Anne de Graaf
Order:  USA  Can
Eerdmans, 2012 (2012)
Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Son of a Gun, based on true events, is presented by award-winning author Anne de Graaf who interviewed many children involved. The story alternates between the words of eight-year old Lucky and his ten-year old sister Nopi. The children are kidnapped from a school in Liberia and forced to become child soldiers.

Nopi says: 'The rebels knew where the kids were when we had a school meeting and waited, knowing they could come and take us then ... I learned that this happens a lot, all over the world. We're called child soldiers. An AK-47 is light enough for kids to carry.'

Children are nudged forward, gun in hand; they are used as decoys by the military units that hold them captive, to flush out the enemy. If they lag behind, their captors beat them. In one instance, Nopi is knocked to the ground, hitting her head hard. it causes her to lose her hearing. The secret is held between brother and sister as Nopi devises a language to communicate with Lucky.

Lucky says: 'They untied us and took the girls away somewhere else. I sat with the other little boys and it was real hard not to cry. When the sun finally came up, I found myself waking because someone's foot kept tapping my shoulder.' Lucky witnesses a Sergeant shoot a boy who speaks up against their treatment.

Lucky and Nopi join a group who come together with plans to escape. When they reach their homestead, all is quiet, the village in shambles. They reunite with their parents, but it doesn't last - they lose their childhood years in constant fear of reprisals. The Liberian civil war lasted fourteen years.

Anne de Graff's chronicle of the Liberian civil war is told with realism through thorough research. Questions for Discussion are included as a tool for classroom teachers to provide their students with knowledge of Liberia, and especially child soldiers. Included is a brief and informative history of Liberia, its people, living standards, the cost of education and the early demise of men and women in their mid-to upper fifties.

Lucky and Nopi travelled with the author from their village of Moravia to Brussels, and now reside in Pennsylvania, USA. Anne de Graf lives in the Netherlands; she has written over eighty children’s books, translated into over fifty languages. Her stories have sold over five-million books worldwide.

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