Fifteen-year-old Burmese teen, Chiko, wants to be a teacher, but the government wants him to be a soldier. Forced against his will to join the army, Chiko learns to survive with the help of his street-wise friend, Tai. In the book, Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins the issues of human rights and prejudices toward minorities are explored in the country of Burma/Myanmar.
Chiko is an intelligent, kind boy whose father, a doctor, has been imprisoned for resisting the government. Tai who befriends Chiko has also benn forced to join the army against his will. Tai has been living on the streets with his sister and knows how to survive against bullies such as those at the military camp. Chiko teaches Tai to read while Tai teaches Chiko how to fight. The two develop such a close bond that they consider each other brothers and are willing to sacrifice their own life for the others.This is part one of the book. In part two, we meet Tu Reh who hates the Burmese for persecuting and killing his people, the Karenni. When Tu Reh finds an injured Chiko he must decide whether he will kill him or help him to live.
The writing in the book has short chapters with terrific descriptions of what it is like living in Burma. The plot is full of tense moments and life-or-death situations. The characters go through internal and external conflicts making it a page turner. The ending did not resolve all the issues and wrapped up too quickly. I thought that Nya Meh had been in contact with Chiko’s dad when they told the story of her being taught medicine by a Burmese doctor when she was captive and when Tu Reh said that the photo of Chiko’s dad looked familiar. Also, the story of how Tai ended up in Yangon should have been explained more. It was glossed over.
Many of the boys are interested in the girls in this story. While nothing happens, Chiko and Tu Reh think a lot about girls and what they like about the the two that have caught their eye. The book is violent with children dying and a bully who is a captain. The recruits handle the bully well and support each other. There is also hints of verbal and physically abuse toward young teenage girls such as when Tai worries about his sister, Auntie Doctor doesn’t want Ree Meh to come with to the clinic because she fears for her safety, and Nya Reh when she was imprisoned by the Burmese. Nothing graphic is explained.
A terrific book with a not so terrific ending.
3 out of 5 Smileys