Over the past day, since I finished reading Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins, I have been asking people what they know about the country of Burma. I probably haven't thought much about Burma, but now having read Bamboo People I can't stop thinking about it. Especially since we have also been told that the school district I work in may be getting an influx of refugees from Burma.
Perkins' books are always well written, always thought provoking, and always with just enough hint of her religious beliefs that she is able to make her point without ever seeming preachy. I should have known I would love this book, but I was a little skeptical because I knew the story was going to be sad/disturbing. I should have trusted Perkins a bit more, because I ended up loving Bamboo People.
Set in Burma (a country I will need to do some serious research on), this book uncovers the war that plagues this country. Chiko is the son of a doctor, a boy/young man who wants to be a teacher. When he is tricked into becoming a soldier, his life changes quickly. Now Chiko is trying to survive. While in a training camp, he makes friends with Tai, a street boy. While Tai doesn't have book smarts, he does have street smarts and the boys learn from each other. Tai repeatedly puts himself at risk for Chiko, and Chiko who is aware of this, ends up volunteering to go on a mission with some soldiers, allowing Tai the chance to go back to the city they were taken from where he is hoping to reunite with his sister.
Tu Reh is another boy/young man from the opposing side of the war, the Karennni, a Burmese minority group. His father has discovered some soldiers who have been killed, along with one young man who is barely clinging to life: Chiko. Now the two boys' lives have intersected. Chiko depends on Tu Reh, and Tu Reh is feeling pressure from his village to get rid of this Burmese soldier.
This novel is thought provoking, a portrait of a country at war. Highly recommended.