Off to War: Voices of Soldiers' Children

Off to War: Voices of Soldiers' Children

by Deborah Ellis

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Deborah Ellis has been widely praised for her gripping books portraying the plight of children in war-torn countries. Now she turns her attention closer to home, to the children whose parents are soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. In frank and revealing interviews they discuss how this experience has marked and shaped their lives. The children talk on

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Deborah Ellis has been widely praised for her gripping books portraying the plight of children in war-torn countries. Now she turns her attention closer to home, to the children whose parents are soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. In frank and revealing interviews they discuss how this experience has marked and shaped their lives. The children talk on military bases, in the streets, in their homes, and over the phone. They speak with remarkable candor about how war has touched their daily lives, and they remind us that although they may be living safely in North America, children always suffer when nations go to war.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Ellis (The Breadwinner, the "Cocalero" novels, and other notable titles) has compiled the observations and concerns of American and Canadian soldiers' children in this slim volume. Each of the children interviewed for this book has had one or both of their parents serve in Afghanistan or Iraq. Some live on military bases; others reside in civilian communities. Some support the war, some oppose it, and some try to avoid the issue or focus on other things in their lives. They range in age from 6 to 16. Their opinions, hopes, fears, and views of the world span an enormous range. Their voices are honest and clear. Sibling replies are clustered together. Each chapter also includes a brief introductory passage about a particular issue. These are diverse and wide-ranging, including such material as the cultural grounding of a Puerto Rican family, the growing recognition of the special needs of military teens, and the emerging voices of dissenters within the military. Evidently, all of the young participants were asked to respond to the same set of interview questions, although those questions are not listed here. Only the final one resonates repeatedly in each piece, as "advice to other military children." Allison, 11, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina says, "Find some way to relieve your stress. You have your own life to live." Patrick, 12, whose father was the first member of the California National Guard to be killed in battle since World War II says with poignant bleakness for one so young, "My advice for other military kids? I don't have any. I'm not a military kid anymore." This is a touching and important book from an author known for her deep concern for children worldwide.Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
VOYA - Hilary Crew
"There are some big differences between military kids and civilian kids. They don't get to go down the same pathways we've passed through," observes twelve-year-old Jasmine. These differences are heard through the voices of children and teens from Canada and the United States who have a parent or both parents serving in the armed forces. Whether they live on- or off-base, they talk openly about their lives, how they deal with a parent's absence, and their fears for their parents' safety. They discuss family relationships, including changes in their fathers or mothers after a tour of duty. Some have experienced the death of a parent or relative. Others talk about their strong relationship with the parent at home and about the hardships the family faces with absent parents. They express their opinions about war, think about future careers, and offer advice to others on how to cope as an "army kid.o Each interview is prefaced by a paragraph that provides extra information, for example, on army bases, the National Guard, the war in Iraq, or support groups. Although the emphasis is on the "war trauma" that "can affect both the soldier and the soldier's family," these young people take pride in their parents' service. Their voices are resilient. In the words of one young girl, "My advice for military kids is keep strong and don't let anybody get you down." These revealing interviews will provide insight into the "pathways" experienced by children and teens who also bear the burden of war. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
School Library Journal

Gr 4-8

War is hell, and not just for the soldiers who go off to fight it. In interviews with approximately 40 children, all of whom have at least one parent who is serving, or has served, in Iraq or Afghanistan, Ellis shows just how hard it is on the family members left behind. Ranging in age from 6 to 17, young people from Canada and the United States talk about the things that are on their minds. Worry about their parents' safety, pride in their service to their country, and confusion about why such service is necessary are all intermingled with the everyday concerns of friends, school, and "just getting on with life." Common themes run throughout; many of those interviewed mention how important it is to maintain a normal life and to find people they trust to talk to, and how hard it is when they are not around other families who are experiencing the same issues. Accessible and utterly readable, this book offers a glimpse into current home-front life, and is a primary source of what it means to have a family member serving in a war. While students may find some of the reading repetitive, the book is an excellent resource for opening discussions about the current events.-Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

Kirkus Reviews
With 13,500 Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and one million American military personnel in Iraq, millions of children on the home front and in the war zones have been affected. As Ellis says, "In any war, it is always the children who are the biggest losers-children whose voices are rarely heard." In an oral history reminiscent of Studs Terkel's superb volumes, Ellis gives voice to the children of Canadian and American soldiers. Each interview is prefaced by information on the war, army bases and the children themselves. Though the children's voices often sound similar, and many repeat the same sentiments-sadness when a parent goes away, the poignancy when children realize they have gotten used to a parent's absence and the difficult readjustment when parents return-it is their accumulation that makes an impact. Later interviews reflect a divergence of opinion-one 11-year-old girl states that the "war was just for oil, and for money-grubbing Americans." Ellis continues to be an important voice of moral and social conscience, and this volume will be followed, in January 2009, by Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees. (glossary, further information) (Nonfiction. 9 & up)

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Product Details

Groundwood Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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