Monday, June 28, 2021

Review: Tamba, Child Soldier by Marion Achard and illustrated by Yann Dégruel

When my children were eight years old, they were fighting me on cleaning their rooms, not taking food out of the kitchen, and doing their homework. When Tamba Cisso, the main character in Marion Achard's graphic novel Tamba, Child Soldier, is eight, he is kidnapped from his village and forced to fight in a guerilla war he doesn't even understand. This powerful story and its illustrations, based on real experiences and real children, help to show just how far apart my children's world and the world of children like Tamba are.

Opening with Tamba's appearance in front of a truth and reconciliation commission, the novel has a tearful Tamba telling the horrifying story of how he came to be a child soldier against his will, what he did during the war, how and why he escaped, and his life as a refugee carrying enormous amounts of guilt for his past actions. The panels telling of Tamba's past are incongruously colorful while the panels depicting the commission which are interspersed with his recounting are earthy, almost sepia toned. The illustrations, with their subtle shading, add emotional depth to the appalling story. The country it all takes place in remains unnamed so that it can stand for any African country at war with itself, using its most innocent to wage that war. It is hard to look at but also impossible to look away from, especially knowing that there are still many child soldiers out there, war destroying them almost more than it is destroying their countries.

After the conclusion of the novel, there are brief, factual histories of child soldiers, truth and reconciliation commissions, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The telling is haunting and terrible and it doesn't shy away from the immediate and long-term devastation perpetrated on the child Tamba and his people and it acknowledges the difficulty in assigning responsibility for all of the hurt and the terror and the inhumanity. This is a gut-wrenching look at the life of a child soldier, the weight these children will carry forever, and the ways in which some countries are trying to heal with compassion for both the children compelled to commit these atrocities and their victims.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts