War Brothers Wins!
The Arthur Ellis Award, 2009, for best juvenile book goes to Sharon E. McKay for War Brothers, a young adult novel set in Uganda about children forced into the infamous Lord's Resistance Army.
For information on all the nominees, go to www.crimewriterscanada.com.
Jacob is the son of a wealthy landowner and Oteka lost his parents to AIDS and is alone in the world. Hannah, beaten but not cowered, holds the secrets of all the vanished children.
Their destinies become entwined as they find themselves in the clutches of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), forced march endlessly through rough terrain with little food or water. The boys form a plan to make their escape, but will friendship, courage, and resilience be enough to save them?
Featuring an afterword by GuluWalk founder and director, Adrian Bradbury, fifty percent of all royalties will go to this Canadian initiated campaign that has grown into a global movement in support of the abandoned children of northern Uganda.
My name is Kitino Jacob. I was born in Gulu, a city of one hundred and ten thousand people in the north of Uganda. I am from the Acholi tribe.
Where I live, far from the capital city of Kampala, Kony Joseph leads the Lord’s Resistance Army (or the LRA.) My country knows this man simply as Kony, the leader of an army of abducted children. He and his LRA gang of rebels steal boys and girls from rural farms, villages, schools, and buses. They say that only they know the true Christian way, that their army of Christian soldiers will fight the government of Uganda and create a country of Christians called “Acholiland.” But Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army are cruel beyond measure. They are not Christians. They do not care for or protect children. I know this to be true because I was one of those abducted children. I became a child soldier in Kony’s army.
My story is not an easy one to tell, and it is not an easy one to read. The life of a child soldier is full of unthinkable violence and brutal death. But this is also a story of hope, courage, friendship, and family. We Ugandans believe that family is most important.
I thought you should be prepared for both the bad and the good. There is no shame in closing this book now.
“There is a convoy of government soldiers coming our way.” Lizard snapped his cellphone shut and rammed it in his pocket. The phone was a badge of authority, proof that he was in command.
“Who will volunteer to fight?” Once again, hands shot up. Jacob, Paul, and Norman just sat on their haunches, secure in the knowledge that they would be passed over.
“You - do you fight today?” Lizard looked down at the three and grinned.
Startled, Jacob and Paul leapt up. Yes! Food, they wanted food. Lizard laughed and nodded. “Give them pangas,” he yelled.
Both boys took the long knives. Norman looked on. He was not given a panga. Preparation for battle began. The soldiers knelt down, facing east. Lizard retrieved a damaged prayer book from a pocket.
I loved the characters, but it was Tony and Oteka that really got to me. Tony because I could understand how shattered he was after his experiences. I think the reason why it is easier to shatter the good ones is because they simply can’t live with what they have done and the only option is to become more evil in response to the self-hatred that is going on inside. As for Oteka, he really was a hero, and I was inspired by his determination to meet his fate and save other girls and boys.
Wow, I really did love this book. Writing this review is putting tears in my eyes remembering McKay’s powerful characters and words.
Sharon McKay’s War Brothers is a chillingly accurate, meticulously researched, and ultimately hopeful fictional account of the very real plight of child soldiers in Uganda. It is a challenging, fiercely intense book that brings mature readers face to face with evil, victimization, grief, and the dark side of human nature, but also with intrigue, adventure, suspense, loyalty, friendship, and the true meaning of family. Anyone who reads this book must be willing to part with every vestige of political apathy in their bones!”
─ Children’s Book News, Fall 2008
“McKay challenges us to make a difference for the children of Uganda, by informing ourselves…and working for change. This book is not about the past; it is about the present, and ultimately perhaps our future.”
─Brandon Sun (Brandon, MB)
“Though War Brothers does deal with some “tough” content, especially when the six adolescents are the LRA’s captives, McKay does not treat the events in any exploitive way. No doubt many Canadian middle schoolers have met similar scenes in books about the Holocaust, but it easy for them to think of such terrible happenings as simply belonging to the past. War Brothers speaks to the present!”
“In this gripping and dramatic tale, Sharon McKay brings the horror of the war in northern Uganda to life. Although hers is a work of fiction, the peril and loss that she so compellingly describes continue to be a sad reality for too many Acholi children today. Through her sensitive portrayal of their response to the harsh life of the child soldier, Ms McKay explores how these innocent victims of war come to grips with dangers and dilemmas that no child should have to confront.”
—Allan Rock, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations
A heartbreaking story about the lives of people in Uganda and their struggle to live day by day; worrying for loved ones abducted the LRA, hiding in displacement camps, or as soldiers fighting to earn a ration of food. ...Resonates with you long after you've put it down, War Brothers should be required reading for young adults."
"A heartbreaking story about the lives of people in Uganda and their struggle to live day by day; worrying for loved ones abducted the LRA, hiding in displacement camps, or as soldiers fighting to earn a ration of food. …Resonates with you long after you’ve put it down, War Brothers should be required reading for young adults."