Set in current day Burma, a country the size of Texas. It shares borders with India, China, Bangladesh, Laos and Thailand. The Karenni state is on the Thai, Burma border. The Karenni people are being pushed out and killed by the Burmese. Burma has been cited for having the highest number of child soldiers in the world. I learned all of this after reading Bamboo People.
Bamboo People is the kind of fiction that will make one want to seek out the facts. Perkin's has written an eye opening novel for those unfamiliar with what's going on in Burma. The author manages is to educate, while never once forgetting she's telling a story. For many authors this could have easily turned into a story filled with flat characters, relying heavily on facts . But not Perkins, she's a gifted story teller, that comes across on every page.
15 yr old Chiko, is tricked and forced to serve in the Burmese military. Before, Chiko is taken he was living with his mother. His father, a doctor was imprisoned for going against the government. Thanks to his father, Chiko is a smart, well read and independent thinker. He doesn't want to go to war, he wants to teach. Though he must quickly learned to adapt, to survive and make it home.
The captain, the man in charge of kidnapping the young Burmese boys has it in for Chiko. Calling him the teacher with venom. Tai, a young boy from the street quickly attaches himself to Chiko. At first glance Chiko underestimates this boy from the streets, though he quickly learns Tai is smart with a good heart. The first half of Bamboo People is Chiko story. The boy soldiers are of two groups, those who believe in the captain, willingly calling him father and those who don't. Chiko and Tai are in the latter. Perkins is great at the slow build. I easily lost myself in the author's words and Chiko's world. Though I didn't want Chiko's story to end it was still a very smooth transtion to Tu Reh story.
Tu Reh a young Karenni boy watched Burmese soliders burn down his home. Tu Reh longs to pick up a gun and go to war. Finally Tu Reh father invites him on mission to get food and supplies to their people. Tu Reh is forced to decide Chiko's fate when they first meet.
I know this novel is about Chiko and Tu Reh but Tai was my favorite character. There was just something about Tai, that I loved.
And I got to love an author that creates great three dimensional main characters yet still manages to have secondary characters that capture and hold me. Bamboo People is a wonderful novel. Great for readers of any age. 12 up.
Here are many more reviews of Bamboo People via the author's blog. Usually, I don't like being one of many but in this case I do so with pleasure. Perkins also created a Bamboo People site . You can find more information about Burma and a discussion on guide