Bamboo People
  • Bamboo People
  • Bamboo People

Bamboo People

4.1 7
by Mitali Perkins
     
 

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Narrated by two teenage boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of Burma's many ethnic minorities, this coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. Chiko isn't a fighter by nature. He's a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting

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Overview

Narrated by two teenage boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of Burma's many ethnic minorities, this coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. Chiko isn't a fighter by nature. He's a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family's home and bamboo fields. Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion when the boys' stories intersect.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Perkins (Secret Keeper) pulls back a curtain on the current conflict in Myanmar (formerly Burma) in this tensely plotted portrait of teens caught in the crossfire. The novel is narrated in two parts, the first by Chiko, a son of Burmese intellectuals who hopes to become a teacher. Perkins sets a chain reaction in motion when Chiko answers an advertisement looking for educators, only to be conscripted into the Burmese army, where an unlikely friendship alters the course of his life even more drastically. Perkins seamlessly blends cultural, political, religious, and philosophical context into her story, which is distinguished by humor, astute insights into human nature, and memorable characters. Teenage Tu Reh, a Karenni (one of the nation’s ethnic minorities), narrates the second half, which begins when he and his father find an injured Burmese soldier (whose identity is instantly apparent), presenting an equally nuanced view from the perspective of the supposed enemy. As Chiko and Tu Reh wrestle with prejudices of culture and class, Perkins delivers a graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship under untenable circumstances. Ages 11-14. (July)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
An educated Burmese teenager whose father is in prison for resisting the military rulers of Burma, Chiko is commandeered into the army. The first half of the book is a first person narrative from his viewpoint. Coming to terms with his brutal separation from his family, he begins to forge a manner of community with other young recruits. In particular, he builds a friendship with a street boy named Tai, whom he teaches how to read and write. When Tai is selected to go on a military expedition against the ethnic minority Karenni, Chiko volunteers to take his place. The second half of the book is from the viewpoint of a Karenni boy, Tu Reh, who is filled with anger at the Burmese slash-and-burn campaign against his people. How they come face to face in this dual narrative makes for an interesting structural choice. Against his instincts, Tu Reh starts to see the humanity in the wounded soldier. Perkins has gentled the story sufficiently that even younger readers will find it accessible. Brutality remains unmasked and undeniable, but it is not gratuitously on display either. Cultural and religious differences between Burmese and Karenni and the background of politics and society in Myanmar are made contextually clear, so the story proceeds without explanatory pauses. Chiko's voice picks up the epilogue, closing the circle. Back matter notes include information about modern Burma, reflections drawn from the author's own experiences living in Thailand and visiting Karenni refugee camps along the border, and a note on the use of the name "Burma" versus the official "Myanmar". It is a heartfelt, well-formed novel about a place and people rarely seen in fiction for young readers. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
Library Journal
Far from the battlefields of our own nation's Civil War comes a story of civil conflict in modern Myanmar (formerly Burma). Chiko, 15, does not know where his next meal will come from. His surgeon father has been arrested, and his mother does not want him to leave the house. Her worst fears are realized when scholarly Chiko answers an ad for teachers and is conscripted to fight as a child soldier. By contrast, Tu Reh has always wanted to fight on the side of the Karenni resistance. Indicative of many of Myanmar's oppressed minorities, the Karenni exist in refugee camps along the country's border. When Tu Reh discovers Chiko injured in the forest, the two boys forge a friendship despite their nation's troubled circumstances.—Angelina Benedetti, "35 Going on 13," BookSmack! 8/19/10
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—With authenticity, insight, and compassion, Perkins delivers another culturally rich coming-of-age novel. Two teens on opposing sides of ethnic conflict in modern-day Burma (Myanmar) tell an intertwined story that poignantly reveals the fear, violence, prejudice, and hardships they both experience. Chiko, a quiet, studious student whose medical doctor father has been arrested as a traitor, is seized by the government and forced into military training. Chiko is groomed for guerrilla warfare against the Karenni, a Burmese minority group living in villages and refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. After he and his patrol stumble into land mines, Tu Reh, an angry Karenni and rebel fighter, must decide whether or not to save him. Tu Reh's home was destroyed by Burmese soldiers, and he struggles with his conscience and his desire for revenge and independence. Both Chiko and Tu Reh are caught in a conflict that neither fully understands. Family, friendships, and loyalty have shaped their lives. But as young soldiers, they face harrowing situations, profound suffering, and life-and-death decisions. Both boys learn the meaning of courage. Chiko and Tu Reh are dynamic narrators whose adolescent angst and perspectives permeate the trauma of their daily lives. Dialogue and descriptions are vibrant; characters are memorable; cultural characteristics are smoothly incorporated; and the story is well paced. Perkins has infused her narrative with universal themes that will inspire readers to ponder humanitarian issues, reasons for ethnic conflict, and the effects of war. The author's notes provide helpful background information on Burmese history and the ongoing military regime's repression of minorities.—Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580893282
Publisher:
Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
Publication date:
07/28/2010
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
1,384,561
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile:
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
11 - 14 Years

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