BAMBOO PEOPLE (Charlesbridge, 2010) has two narrators. Chiko is Burmese. He longs to become a teacher even though everyone assumes he will become a doctor like his father. Chiko misses his father who has been arrested for his resistance to the leaders of Burma. When Chiko answers an ad in the paper for teachers, he discovers that there is deception. Instead, he is sent off to be trained for the army.
Tu Reh is Karenni, an oppressed people who live in refugee camps near the Thai border. Burmese soldiers burned down his home and the homes of others in his village. He longs for revenge and seeks to join hius father on missions into the jungle.
What happens when the two meet? That is, indeed, the million dollar question. How can Tu Reh give comfort and aid to someone who perhaps is a spy for the Burmese Army? How can Chiko survive without help from others? After all he is book smart but knows little about survival in the jungle. As the two lives intersect, Perkins gives readers a glimpse into what it means to be a hero. As Tolkien observes: a hero does not return home unscarred.
Readers will not return from this book without a new sense of the geopolitics of modern day Burma (Myanmar). War and the effects of war have long been themes explored by books. Perkins offers tweens and teens a chance to ponder these global themes from a developmentally appropriate perspective.
POSSIBKLE READING LADDER RUNGS:
A MILLION SHADES OF GRAY
LORD OF THE RINGS
SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER