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Kid Konnection: Bamboo People

August 7, 2010

Things are dangerous in Burma.  When Chiko’s father was taken away to prison, he asked Chiko to take care of his mother.  So far, Chiko doesn’t feel like he’s doing a very good job, since he and his mom don’t have enough money to pay the rent, eat well or send to support his dad.  When Chiko sees an ad for teachers, he’s anxious to go apply, since he can read and write in both English and Burmese.  If he can get the job, things will improve for him and his mother.  When he goes to apply for the job, he discovers that it’s a trick and he and all the other “applicants” are rounded up and forced to become boy soldiers.  Chiko and a young street boy become unlikely allies.

Tu Reh is a young Karenni boy.  Burmese soldiers have forced him and his family out of their home and into a refugee camp across the Thai border.  Tu Reh and his best friend, Sa Reh are consumed with anger and they’re anxious to exact revenge.  Tu Reh’s father is a well regarded and peaceful man – when he selects Tu Reh to accompany him on the camp’s latest mission, Tu Reh is ecstatic.

Chiko’s and Tu Reh’s lives intersect at a violent and surprising moment, changing them and their families forever.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is an absolutely amazing book!  I’m not sure I’ll be able to adequately express just how much I loved it and how important I think it is.  It’s impossible to read this book and not be affected.  I felt a range of emotions from anger and sadness to joy and hope.  Chiko and Tu Reh are such different characters but I became attached to both of them and rooted for them along the way, especially when their lives came together in such a violent and unexpected way.  This book really made me think about the fact that it can be easy to be taught to hate a group of people, but it’s much more difficult to hate an individual.  It made me think about the way power and greed can corrupt people and ruin the lives of so many.  It made me wonder how we can let things like this go on in our world and what can be done about it.

Don’t let the YA label of this book fool you.  There is much in Bamboo People for adults, as well as children.  I learned so much as I read it, and also want to know more now.  (I admit to knowing very little about Burma before I read this book.) Mitali Perkins includes several notes in the back of the book and tells readers that in 1989, the military government of Burma changed it’s name to the Union of Myanmar, however, the US, the UK and Canada as well as other nations refused to recognize the new name.  Not all that long ago, Burma had one of the highest literacy rates in Southeast Asia, but things have been declining there for years.  Now, the country is poor with the second worst health system in the world.  Burma has the largest number of child soldiers in the world and these young soldiers are taught to hate ethnic minorities .  To learn more about Burma and to find discussion questions for the book, visit bamboopeople.org and watch this CNN video:

For more children’s books reviews, go to Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week,  leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

Challenges: What’s in a Name 3 Challenge, Lititz Kid-Lit Challenge

I received a copy of this book at the BEA Children’s Author Breakfast.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2010 6:35 am

    Excellent, excellent, excellent. Mitali Perkins is such an important writer, and I must read this book.

  2. August 7, 2010 6:59 am

    I was excited to get a copy of this signed at BEA and look forward to reading it next month!

  3. August 7, 2010 7:20 am

    I have this book and really want to read it. Everyone who reads Bamboo People is affected by the story. Great review and very interesting video.

  4. August 7, 2010 7:22 am

    I liked your review!

  5. August 7, 2010 7:35 am

    Great review, definitely peaked my interest in this book. Thanks.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

  6. August 7, 2010 8:55 am

    Fabulous review and I can really tell how much this book resonated with you!!! I can’t wait to read it — maybe this week?

  7. August 7, 2010 9:18 am

    No one doesn’t rave about this! And Burma has such a fascinating history. I really must get a copy!

  8. August 7, 2010 9:27 am

    A great review. You make me want to get the book and read it. Children’s books are so different from when I was a child!

    Helen

  9. August 7, 2010 9:29 am

    This author certainly got everyone excited at BEA. Nothing is better, in my opinion, than a book accessible to all ages that also educates about an unknown part of the world.

  10. August 7, 2010 11:25 am

    This book is completely new to me, so I really enjoyed reading your review. I don’t know a whole lot about Burma either, so I’m sure it would be an educational read for me as well.

  11. August 7, 2010 3:25 pm

    I loved your review. I’ve never heard of this book before but will try to find it. It looks quite good.

    I have an award for you HERE

  12. August 7, 2010 3:27 pm

    Oh, I forgot to say that I know you don’t post awards, but still wanted to let you know that I think your posts are xxtraordinary!

  13. August 7, 2010 3:59 pm

    Sounds like a great book! I’m adding it to my wish list.
    Natalie :0)

  14. August 7, 2010 4:11 pm

    This is a country I know little about. The book sounds excellent, Kathy. Thanks for presenting such a great review.

  15. stacybuckeye permalink
    August 7, 2010 5:21 pm

    What a powerful YA novel. I know next to nothing about Burma and am anxious to learn more just from your review.

  16. August 7, 2010 8:23 pm

    Wow! sounds amazing!!

    by the way, i’m reading holly’s inbox now too :)

  17. August 7, 2010 8:26 pm

    Wow … what a review and a recommendation. I’ll add it to my list.

  18. August 8, 2010 11:21 am

    This sounds like such an amazing book. I love the concept of using two boys’ stories and having them converge.

  19. August 8, 2010 11:32 am

    I read another really good review of this book recently, and think it would be a good companion to some other books on Burma that I’ve been reading.

  20. August 8, 2010 12:18 pm

    Great review and insight on the plight of the Burmese people. You have to read Freedom from Fear by Aung Sang Suu Kyi (1990). It is such an incredible read for its message by this Nobel Peace Prize winner and the political environment make us realize how fortunate we are to live in such a democratic society where we have Freedom of Speech. Again thank you for bringing this one to the forefront.

  21. August 8, 2010 12:53 pm

    If you want to learn more about Burma, I HIGHLY recommend Emma Larkin’s books (she’s a Westerner) and the memoir From the Land of Green Ghosts (he’s from one of the Burmese minorities).

  22. August 8, 2010 3:49 pm

    I have been seeing this book all over the place, but I think this is the first really comprehensive review I have come across. It does sound like an interesting story, but also very sad. I am glad you enjoyed it so much and that it gave you so much to think about. I am adding this to my list!

  23. August 8, 2010 6:49 pm

    I’m glad you loved this book! Mitali Perkins is on my list of must-read authors, and I have her Secret Keeper to read.

  24. August 8, 2010 9:46 pm

    What an amazing book. And how terribly sad the situation in Burma. Books like this one open up the world to our children.

  25. August 9, 2010 2:00 am

    Wonderful review Kathy. I would love to know more about Burma. I added this to my TBR.

  26. August 9, 2010 9:00 am

    I have this one as well and can’t wait to get to it. Thanks for the review!

  27. August 9, 2010 7:49 pm

    Now I want to read this one too. See the danger of great book blogs? LOL. Thanks for reviewing this book. I want to learn more about Burma.

  28. August 13, 2010 12:26 am

    Oh it didn’t sound like YA when you were describing it. Neat! I usually like YA, sometimes more than the more “adult” books out there.

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