Chanda's Wars
by Stratton, Allan; Dallaire, Romeo (AFT)

After her brother and sister are kidnapped by a brutal cult and taken away to the bush for training as child soldiers of the Rwandan genocide, Chanda is resolute in her decision to risk her own life and freedom in order to bring them back to their rightful home.

Like his Printz Honor Book, Chanda's Secret (2004), Stratton's sequel, set in a fictional African country, revolves around Chanda Kabele, orphaned by AIDS. In this book, Chanda, who tells the story in an immediate, first-person, present-tense narrative, is caring for her younger brother, Soly, and sister, Iris. Horrors of the civil war are all around them, and Iris and Soly are kidnapped by rebels and turned into brutal soldiers. The realistic description of Chanda's tracking the children through the bush to rescue them is intriguing, and readers will appreciate the girl's feelings as she wonders if her siblings can ever recover from what they have seen, what they have done. Familiarity with the previous book isn't necessary; this one starts off with detailed references to the past-too many, in fact. But the characters are drawn without sentimentality, and the story is a moving portrayal of betrayal and love. The army's brutality and the traumas of the child soldiers are graphic and disturbing; there's nothing easy and comfortable here. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Still raw from bringing her mother home to die six months ago, Chanda raises her young siblings in this forceful sequel. A recurring nightmare prompts a visit to the rural relatives who left Chanda's mother to die of AIDS alone in the bush. They consider Chanda cursed and urge redemption through an arranged marriage. Horrified, she tries to take Iris and Soly back to the city when violence explodes. A sociopathic warlord from a bordering country brings a bloodbath down on the village and steals the young children to use as soldiers. Despite the deranged "rebel" army's machine guns and machetes, Chanda sneaks through the bush in pursuit, desperate to recover her siblings. Her intended husband joins her, tracking his brother. That they do save the children is an implausible but heart-wrenching relief. Iris and Soly's long-term scars-physical (branding) and emotional (they were forced to burn homes with people inside)-are gravely realistic. Stratton's setting (as in Chanda's Secrets, 2004) is a fictional African country, so the explanatory author's note is required reading for this outstanding piece. (afterword, author's note) (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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