War Brothers: the Graphic Novel, written by Sharon McKay & illustrated by Daniel LaFrance

war-brothersBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Annick Press Ltd., 2013
  • Edition,
  • Description: 163 pages : chiefly color illustrations, color maps ; 25 cm
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: “When fourteen-year-old Jacob is brutally abducted and forced to become a child soldier, he struggles to hold on to his sanity and the will to escape.” Retrieved from http://www.annickpress.com/War-Brothers.
  • ISBN: 978-1-55451-489-2
  • Subjects:
    • Child Soldiers – Juvenile Fictions
    • Uganda – Juvenile Fiction
    • Friendship – Juvenile Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: Thrown into a nightmare of murder, warfare, starvation, and abuse, three young boys struggle to survive.  Their choice is simple: become the monsters they fear and hate, or risk all to escape.

Plot Summary:  This book is a graphic novel presentation of the full-length book by Sharon McKay of the same name.  It follows the story of three boys, Kitina Jacob (the protagonist), Tony, and Paul from their arrival at a Ugandan boarding school for boys called the George Jones Seminary for Boys and their eventual return from the nightmare that engulfed them.  The first night they were at the school it was raided by the Lord’s Resistance Army lead by a man named Kony.  The army was largely composed of men and women who, like the three boys, had been kidnapped by Kony’s men and forced to fight in his army.  The boys where brutalized, over-worked, forced to fight, and starved.  Any infraction or resistance was punishable by beatings or death.  The first night in the army they were forced to beat another injured child to death or be killed themselves.  In this army, any weakness was punishable by death as it was an affront to God.  Despite the odds against him, Kitina struggles both to survive and remain a good person, but the battle is as difficult and dangerous as the story is deeply moving and affecting.

Critical Evaluation:  Overall, there are few flaws in this book.  It does what a graphic novel version of a longer book should do; it makes you want to read the full version but also makes you fear doing that because it will leave the reader marked by knowledge no person, especially a child, should ever know.  The art work is not refined but almost child-like in a way that makes the characters even more tragic.  The use of color is bold but muted, mirroring the colors associated with Africa; deep reds, sienna, black and greens.  The children are pined in a way that suggests hunger and pain without making that suffering blatant.  You see the horror of Kitani world through his eyes and you understand not just his fear but his deep failure to understand how someone could do the things that those in control of him do.  It is a terrible thing the writer and the artist are showing the reader and not something soon forgotten.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Montreal born author Sharon E. McKay is well-known for her novels for young adults including Charlie Wilcox, Charlie Wilcox’s Great War, Esther and four novels in Penguin’s “Our Canadian Girl” historical fiction series.  Her most recent works for young adults include War Brothers, a story of child soldiers in Uganda and the winner of the Arthur Ellis Award. . . .  In January 2008 Sharon was accepted into the Canadian Forces (War) Artists Program or CFAP. She is the first children’s writer to hold the title. In March 2009 she went to Afghanistan to, in the words of the program description, “capture the daily operations, personnel, and spirit of the Canadian Forces.”

Genre Designation: Modern Historical Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Africa – Uganda
  • War – Impact on children

Book Talk Ideas:

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


Why this book was selected:  I selected this book because of the topic.  It is a grim story but one that people should be aware of as it is still happening around the world.  Children are the victims of many different kinds of abuse and it is a problem that will not go away until we as a species decide to make it go away.


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