Bamboo People
Bamboo People
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Annotation: Two Burmese boys, one a Karenni refugee and the other the son of an imprisoned Burmese doctor, meet in the jungle and in order to survive they must learn to trust each other.
Catalog Number: #5518503
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition Date: 2012
Pages: 272 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-580-89329-5
ISBN 13: 978-1-580-89329-9
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2009005495
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
When 15-year-old Chiko is pressed into military service by the Burmese government, he finds himself involved in an ongoing war with the Karenni people, one of the many ethnic minorities in modern Burma. A scholar, not a soldier, Chiko soon gets wounded and finds himself at the mercy of Tu Reh, an angry Karenni boy only slightly older than he is. Will these two teens, who should be natural enemies, find a way to friendship? Perkins' latest novel ld in the individual voices of the two boys plores that possibility while introducing a considerable amount of factual and contextual information about present-day Burma. Though occasionally didactic and a bit preachy, this is nevertheless a story that invites discussion of the realities of warfare rooted in long-standing antagonism and unreasoning hatred of "the other." A particularly good book for classroom use.
Horn Book
Bookish Chiko is press-ganged into the Burmese army. His faith and humanity serve him well after he's captured by Karenni rebels and taken to a refugee camp in Thailand. Halfway through, the novel switches to the viewpoint of Tu Reh, a Karenni boy involved in Chiko's capture. Writing in a present tense that adds urgency, Perkins draws a persuasive picture of contemporary Burma.
Kirkus Reviews
Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. <p>Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko's physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another "recruit," uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people's resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn't sugarcoat her subject--coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society--this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, "What is it like to be a child soldier?" clearly, but with hope. (author's note, historical note) <em>(Fiction. 11-14)</em></p>
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 7&11;10&12; 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.&12; Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Starred Review for 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%E2%80%99s 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%E2%80%9314. (July)
Word Count: 50,801
Reading Level: 4.4
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.4 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 137295 / grade: Middle Grades
Guided Reading Level: X
Fountas & Pinnell: X
            Teachers wanted. Applicants must take examination in person. Salaries start at--
            "Chiko, come inside!" Mother calls through the screen door, her voice low and urgent.
            On the road behind our house, horns toot, sirens blare, and bicycle rickshaws crowd the streets. A high cement wall and a barrier of bamboo muffle the noise, making our garden seem as private as a monastery. But it isn't. I could be spotted from the houses nearby, and spies are everywhere. They would betray even an old neighbor for extra ration cards.
            I scan the rest of the announcement quickly, my heart racing.
            "Chiko! Now!" Mother startles the flock of green parakeets perched on the birdbath, and they fly away.
            I fold the newspaper around A Tale of Two Cities and head for the house. I want to tell Mother about the call for teachers in the paper, but it seems like she's getting more anxious by the day. So am I, even though I wish I didn't have to admit that. I'm tired of hiding, of worrying, and worst of all, of remembering again and again the day the soldiers came for Father. Remembering how I've failed him.
            "You shouldn't be reading out there," Mother tells me, peering out through the screen after latching the door behind me.
            I take a deep breath and push my glasses back. It's now or never. "No harm in reading the government newspaper. There's a notice--"
            But she's not listening. "We'll talk about that later, Chiko. How could you take one of your father's books outside? Do you want to end up in prison, too?"
            She's right--I shouldn't have brought the book out there. The government gets suspicious when a Burmese boy reads English books. But I don't answer her questions. What can I say? That it already feels like I'm in prison? I take the novel out of the newspaper. The worn cloth cover is still warm from the sunshine. "Read widely, Chiko," Father used to say. "Great doctors must understand human nature in order to heal."
            "Hide it right now, Chiko," Mother says sharply. "Wait. Let me draw the blinds."
            The dim room grows even darker. I reach behind the large painting of a white elephant, and we hear the familiar click. The painting swings open silently, like a well-oiled door. Hidden behind it is the cabinet Father built to conceal his battered black medical bag, books, and papers.
            The books are in the same order as he left them, and I slip A Tale of Two Cities into place. There are a dozen medical and college textbooks, but we also own the complete works of Shakespeare, a book about Buddha's teachings, the Christian Holy Bible, a few slim volumes of British poetry, an illustrated Oxford dictionary, some Burmese books (like the Jakata tales and verses by Thakin Kodaw Hmaing and Tin Moe), novels by Indian and Russian writers like Rabindranath Tagore and Fyodor Dostoevsky,
The Arabian Nights, and a set of books by Charles Dickens. These are our family treasures--faded, tattered, and well read.
            I'm one of the few boys in town who can read and write in Burmese and English. It's only because of Father. Schools around here close down so often it's hard to learn, but I studied at home.
            Father's favorite books explain the secrets and mysteries of the human body, from bones to blood to cells to nerves. I always loved stories the best--books about heroes and quests and adventures, books where everything turns out fine in the end. I tried to pretend to be interested in science, but Father wasn't fooled; he used the novels as prizes after we studied science.
            It's no use remembering the good times we had. I think I miss the sound of him the most. His voice--reading, talking, or laughing--steadied the house like a heartbeat. These days I only hear the conversation of Mother and her friends. If this keeps up, my own voice might reverse itself and start sounding high and sweet again.
            I remember the last time I heard Father speak--almost four months ago. "Take care of your mother, Chiko!" he shouted as six or seven army officers shoved him into a van.
            "I will, Father!" I answered, hoping he heard.
            But have I kept that promise? No! All I've done is hide, and that's not good enough with our money running out. And it's terrible to go without news of him. The same thought keeps both Mother and me awake at night, even though we never say it to each other. Is he alive?

Excerpted from Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

A refugee and child soldier challenge the rules of war in this coming-of-age novel set 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. When Chiko is forced into the Burmese army and subsequently injured on a mission, the boys’ lives intersect. Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion as both boys discover that everything is not as it seems. Mitali Perkins delivers a touching story about hopes, dreams, and the choices that define who we are.

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