22 February 2011
Stratton, Allan. Chanda's Wars. New York: Harper Teen, 2008.
Ever since Chanda's mother died of AIDS, she has been tasked with raising her younger brother and sister and taking care of their African home. Her dreams of finishing high school and winning a scholarship are put on hold for the time being as she works as a teacher at the local elementary school, cleans the house in the evenings, and makes sure her brother and sister get to school on time.
All of this changes when a rebel general enters the country and begins wreaking havoc everywhere he goes. Suddenly the job of caring for two little ones in addition to herself becomes a battle for survival. Chanda has to track down the rebel general and his army of child soldiers and rescue her brother and sister.
I enjoyed this story. Stratton was able to create a realistic cast of characters, and I was rooting for Chanda as she tracked the rebel general through the bush, avoiding alligators, hippos, and other dangers. I was so glad that she was able to rescue her brother and sister. I also appreciated the author's treatment of their adjustment to "normal life." Chanda's little brother and sister experience many difficulties returning to living in a house, attending school, etc. Only when they are able to talk to Chanda's friend, whose face is scarred due to an attack/rape that she endured years before, are they willing to adjust to normalcy once more. The children see Esther's scars and her ability to face the morning sun every day and begin to open up about what happened while they were in the rebel army. Their healing begins when they are willing to bare their scars and share their burden with their family.