Monday, August 25, 2008

Brothers in Hope: Mary Williams

I cannot imagine a more difficult subject for a children's book than the current genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. But in Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, author Mary Williams and illustrator R. Gregory Christie manage to tackle the difficult subject with grace, poignancy, and hope.

In the late 1980's, over 40,000 boys from the ages of 4-15 were orphaned by the civil war that is still going on in Sudan. These boys banded together, organized themselves into groups, and walked 1000 miles to a refugee camp in Kenya. Over 3000 of them now live in the United States.

It's a story that is almost too much to bear, but Mary Williams and R. Gregory Christie do a beautiful job of focusing on themes of strength and hope without diminishing the intensity and gravity of the situation.

It's the details in this book that bring the story to life. The toys the Lost Boys made out of mud to amuse themselves. The urine they had to drink to stay alive. There is a page that talks about how the boys held hands at night to make sure they didn't lose anyone. The illustration shows an endless line of boys, each holding one hand in front of them and one hand behind them. It took my breath away.

Brothers in Hope is the kind of book that will generate lots of interesting, difficult, and rewarding discussion. It deals with war, losing your family, starvation, struggle. But it also deals with strength, hope, determination, and love. With a caring adult willing to answer questions, I think most children will find this book fascinating and inspiring.

For more information on Darfur and what you can do to help, please visit:

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