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One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War by Charles London

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“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”

This African proverb begins an eye-opening exploration into the lives of children in conflict areas. Unlike newspapers and TV broadcasts, this book doesn’t focus on the ‘elephants’. It focuses on the grass, each individual blade of grass, exploring each child’s experience with care and truth.

This book follows the journey of the author, Charles London, to places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Kosovo, and Burma, where war has destroyed the lives of thousands of people. London draws and plays soccer with the children, and then asks them to tell their story. The author both reveals the fragile hopes of these children: to find their family, to go to school, to go home; as well as gently exposes the harsh reality of their situations: war, poverty, discrimination. Most remarkable are the details that the author notes: the little girl whose hands ‘flutter like moths’, or a young boy’s fascination with Spider Man. Often we can be desensitized by faceless numbers, but these children are made much more tangible. They are treated as more than symbols and victims of wars; their dreams and their quirks are fully explored, leading the reader to feel a true connection with them.

What I particularly enjoyed was the way that history lessons and personal anecdotes are integrated. Amidst the children’s stories is peppered the complicated history of the conflicts, as well insightful descriptions of the children’s characters. This book has a wonderful balance of stories and fact, humor and heartbreak, hope and brutal reality.

The voices of the children linger long after the book is finished. It is impossible for me to forget now that as I struggle with day to day things like chores and homework, there are children who must make impossible choices in order to keep surviving. Heartwarming, hopeful, and memorable, this book with undoubtedly make you appreciate the value of your lives and inspire you to take action.




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