Title: A long way gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Author: Ishmael Beah
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition; Fourth Printing edition (February 13, 2007)
Grade Level: 7-10
Awards: 2008 Alex Award
2008 ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Summary: Ishmael tells the story of his life in Sierra Leone during civil war as he goes from boy from the countryside to blood thirsty killer and then redeemed child spokesperson.
Comments:Ishmael’s story begins as he flees from his home as it is burned by the RUF, the Revolutionary United Front, and then later recruited by the loosely banded government army as a child soldier in return for food and protection.
The story is compelling but superficial and glosses over the real heart of what readers want to know-how does one go from shivering boy to thoughtless killer in a so short a time? how does a child reconcile with the total loss of his entire family? How does one come back from hell?These things are mentioned in the tale, but not really given the richness and depth that one expects. The answers are too simple. The recovery too one dimensional.
The book is an easy read and is told in a way that is appropriate from middle school and young adult readers, but those who are looking for a deeper philosophical look at war and those who perpetuate it may not find it here.
Georgia Performance Standards:
ELA7RC1 The student reads a minimum of 25 grade-level appropriate books or book equivalents (approximately 1,000,000 words) per year from a variety of subject disciplines. The student reads both informational and fictional texts in a variety of genres and modes of discourse, including technical texts related to various subject areas.
ELA8RC1 The student reads a minimum of 25 grade-level appropriate books or book equivalents (approximately 1,000,000 words) per year from a variety of subject disciplines. The student reads both informational and fictional texts in a variety of genres and modes of discourse, including technical texts related to various subject areas.
ELAALRL1 The student demonstrates comprehension by identifying evidence (i.e., examples of diction, imagery, point of view, figurative language, symbolism, plot events and main ideas) in a variety of texts representative of different genres (i.e., poetry, prose [short story, novel, essay, editorial, biography], and drama) and using this evidence as the basis for interpretation.
SS7CG2 The student will explain the structures of the modern governments of Africa.
SS7CG3 The student will analyze how politics in Africa impacts standard of living.
- Have students speculate as to what happened to Ishmael’s family?
- Have students discuss the validity of Ishmael’s autobiographical account. What makes his account believable or unbelievable?
- Have students compare the children of the RUF with that of the government army. How are they similar? How are they different?