Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is the story of war and aggression in a part of the world that has been filled with armed conflict for decades. The newspapers are full of stories of human right infringements and continued fighting between the Myanmar army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) of Thailand. In this story, Chiko, a young man living with his mother in a large city in Burma, is captured and forced to join the military as a child soldier. His story continues through training in an isolated jungle camp and eventual insertion into the zone of combat. During this time Chiko learns the stories of other child soldiers as friendship are created. At the same time in Thailand, another young man is part of a rebel force who has been fighting against the Burmese army. The lives of these two will eventually become one as both sides of the conflict are presented. I found this book a very interesting look into the way in which young men are forced to become part of armies and the issues behind the use of children as soldiers. As a story, it was refreshing to read a book about boys that does not involve a strong female character who “rescues” them or an involved love relationship. Basically a book about boys for boys but still captures the bonds of friendship and comradeship.
Overall winner, Bamboo People.