When soldiers attack his village, fifteen year-old Elijah Bwoko and his best friend become separated from family members. They receive word that Elijah’s sisters have been taken as slaves to a village several days’ journey away. In order to reach the girls, the boys must sneak past the soldiers who enslaved them and find a way to set them free. Then the group will have to escape across the border of Uganda. If they can get to the refugee camp there, they can apply for passage to America for freedom and safety.
In straightforward prose, DiCianni relates the story of a young boy in a war torn nation. Elijah is easy to relate to through descriptions of his love for soccer, his friendship with Thomas, and his love for his missing sisters. Though it addresses a heavy topic, the story doesn’t go into a lot of graphic detail in scenes depicting soldiers and child slavery. The content is mild enough for older elementary readers. It’s a relatively short novel at 122 pages, and would make a great resource for the classroom as part of a world cultures or current events study.
As Christians, Elijah and Thomas pray when scary or dangerous situations arise. Earlier in the story, Elijah reminds his friend that the trouble in Sudan began when Muslims from the north of the country tried to take valuable resources from the south and force the people to denounce Christianity.
Soldiers destroy a village and capture children to be used for slave labor. The boys run, so they don’t really witness this firsthand. They see the destruction left behind, though. A village boy is missing a leg from an incident with a land mine. Gunfire alerts the boys that soldiers approach. Some scary situations, but few descriptions of violence.