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War Brothers: The Graphic Novel [Hardcover]

Sharon McKay , Daniel Lafrance
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 7 2013 War Brothers

Praise for War Brothers, the novel by Sharon E. McKay:

War Brothers is a novel that very accurately portrays the criminality of adults who abduct kids to carry out crimes against humanity... This engrossing book is a vivid look at the hideous crimes committed by such groups and should be read by anyone wanting to know about Kony's LRA.
-- Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire (Retired), international child soldier advocate

The life of a child soldier is full of unthinkable violence ... But the human capacity to connect with others and for survival is remarkable.

Jacob is a 14-year-old Ugandan who is sent away to a boys' school. Once there, he assures his friend Tony that they need not be afraid -- they will be safe. But not long after, in the shadow of the night, the boys are abducted. Marched into the jungle, they are brought to an encampment of the feared rebel soldiers. They are told they must kill or be killed, and their world turns into a terrifying struggle to endure and survive.

In time, the boys escape. Hunted by the rebels, stalked by a lion, and even pursued by river crocs, they miraculously succeed in reaching safety. However, it is no longer enough. Jacob wrestles with the question of whether we are all really beasts inside. He decides the way through the pain is to record his story.

Daniel Lafrance's powerful, striking, and poignant artwork and the crisp, evocative text vividly capture the haunting experiences of a young boy caught in a brutal war.

This graphic novel is based on an award-winning YA novel by Sharon McKay. Sharon has spent time with child soldiers and based this story on real-life accounts.


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Review

Winner of the 2009 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile Crime Novel, Sharon E. McKay's novel War Brothers is a gritty read, graphic in its story premise, in its details, in its reality. (CanLit for Little Canadians 2013-06-01)

This is a powerful graphic novel and a really good read. (J.K. Parkin Comic Book Resources 2013-02-11)

[LaFrance's] realistic drawings enhance the story presenting an unflinchingly dark visual representation of the horrors young boys like Jacob experience at the hands of the LRA. With this graphic-novel adaptation, the author and illustrator reinforce Jacob's conclusion that his role must be to tell the world what is happening to these children, hoping for an end to the violence. (Dean Schneider Horn Book Magazine 2013-06-27)

These components--strong story, powerful storyteller, talented artist--make for a winning combination. (January Magazine 2013-05-30)

Powerful storytelling based on documented experiences; despite being set in 2002, it's as relevant as ever. (Kirkus Reviews 2013-02-15)

The youth of the world have the responsibility and the power to be engaged to alter the future of humanity. War Brothers is a means to convey the plight of child soldiers in Northern Uganda to young people through a lens that is accessible and attention grabbing. Young people should be outraged that their peers are being systematically abused by adults in wars that ultimately benefit no one. (L. Gen the Honourable Romeo A. Dallaire (Ret'd), S 2012-01-00)

Normally, I prefer cleaner lines in graphic novels, but the sketchy, colored pencil type look worked really well for this story. It creates kind of a nightmare quality, reflecting the horror of being a child soldier. This is the kind of graphic novel everyone should read. (Martha Dodge NetGalley 2013-02-24)

War Brothers is a riveting and compelling account of a young boy from northern Uganda who is abducted into the Lord's Resistance Army. Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance have created a powerful graphic novel that provides a true no-holds-barred account of life as a child soldier. Readers are swept into the world of these child soldiers through intense action and dialogue where they experience their pain and losses, but also their triumphs and their courage. War Brothers presents this gripping tale in an engaging and attractive way for younger readers and fuels the elimination of the weapons system of recruiting children into war. (Melanie Tomsons, Executive Director and CCO Never Again International: Canada 2012-04-01)

As upsetting as this story is--all the more for its basis in the ongoing reality for children still conscripted into the LRA--McKay doesn't leave readers without a sense of hope. (Publishers Weekly 2013-04-29)

A challenging, uncompromising work... a beautiful treatment of stark ugliness... McKay's exhaustive research and extensive interviews with former child soldiers, and the verisimilitude she brings to her characterization and storytelling render the abstract concept of child soldiers with an all-too-real clarity. Lafrance's art adds another layer, transitioning from crisp naturalism to stylized shadows and colours as panic and violence rise in the characters... This is a powerful, important work of reality-based fiction... Parents [may] wonder whether their children should read it. The answer to this question is not only, Yes, they should, but also, Yes, they must. (Robert J. Wiersema Quill and Quire 2013-02-21)

This story is powerful, moving, and prompts much introspection about humans' inhumanity to others, boy soldiers, and how quickly an individual may be persuaded to kill another or betray others in order to save his/her own life. It also contains a powerful message about the redemptive power of hope and the resilience of individuals such as Jacob. The graphic novel format makes a compelling, heart-breaking story even more compelling. Understandably, readers will find it hard to forget this story, Jacob or his slow recovery from his ordeal. (Barbara A. Ward Reading Today Online, International Reading Associ 2013-06-12)

[Lafrance's] beautiful, colorful depictions of Africa [are] especially effective at offering the story urgency while still giving it the feeling of a boy's adventure comic--it's very reminiscent of European cartoonists like Hugo Pratt. Having this story geared to a younger audience makes the graphic novel so bold. It's depicting the horrors for the exact age group who experiences them out in the real world. It's done with such a delicate finesse that offers a path to empathy without causing a kid to sink into depression about the implications and possibilities. It puts a face on the nightmarish to just the people who can benefit from it. (John Seven Reverse Direction 2013-03-08)

It is powerful historical fiction. It is an important story to tell, and this team has done so admirably. (Sally Bender Sal's Fiction Addiction 2013-04-02)

McKay and Lafrance based this harrowing story on interviews with escaped child soldiers, and they have kept their focus on the young survivors as they desperately cling to their beliefs, hold out hope for rescue, and struggle with reintegrating into their communities, where people fear that the boys have been irrevocably changed into killers. Lafrance's panels are tinted with soft, rich colors, which belie the heartrending content within. This is a sorrowful and all-too-true story, but one that ends on a hopeful note. (Sarah Hunter Booklist 2013-04-15)

This is a must for the classroom! (Jeffrey Canton Canadian Children's Book News 2013-04-00)

A truly important work that is well worth the read. (Ryan P. Donovan School Library Journal 2013-03-00)

Devastatingly realistic... What went on in this part of this world in the early 2000s is an important global issue for people of all ages to be aware of, and these boys prove to be a good entry point into a difficult subject. Although War Brothers, adapted from the author's prose novel, is fiction, it is based on interviews with survivors; everything that happened in this book has happened, and is happening still. With his first graphic novel, Lafrance's watercolor artwork truly shines, depicting many close-ups that convey the deep emotions that the characters are going through... A truly important work that is well worth the read. (Ryan P. Donovan, New York Public Library School Library Journal 2013-03-01)

This book is clean. Clean means it's tight. Maybe even deep... His story has haunted me for weeks. (Amy Cheney, Alameda County (CA) Library, Write to School Library Journal YA Underground 2013-03-19)

While capturing the horrific tragedy of the life of child soldiers, co-creators Sharon E. McKay and Daniel Lafrance also manage to offer inspiration: war decimates, and yet everlasting bonds can also be forged. [T]his is also a story of hope, courage, friendship, and family, Jacob reminds. He echoes his friend Hannah, ... that if the world knows that child soldiers suffer unimaginable cruelty and pain, then help will come. I hope this is right. With testimony as formidable as War Brothers, we can't say we didn't know. And now that we know, we must help, offer hope, and make change. That's a mantra for us all. (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center 2013-03-11)

Highly recommended, this is a story that is riveting to read as long as you are brave enough to continue turning the pages. (Tasha Saecker wakingbraincells. com 2013-04-19)

Daniel Lafrance's striking artwork vividly brings the reader face to face with the children who are forced to participate in a brutal war they know little about... War Brothers is a truly important work both in the original version and in this graphic novel version. Highly recommended. (Chris Laurie, Outreach Librarian, Winnipeg Public CM 2013-09-06)

This story is based on actual events and is told in graphic novel format presenting a unique view of the situation in Uganda... The depiction of events is tastefully done so that students in younger grades are able to comprehend the severity of the events taking place in Africa. Although students would probably not pick this book up on their own and will need prompting, it is a great resource to have in any library collection. (Cassandra Rondinella VOYA 2013-08-00)

This title would be a great addition to any Junior High or High School and could be used as a supplement for Social Studies or English classrooms... Highly recommended. (Jennifer Flaherty Library Media Connection 2013-10-04)

These components -- strong story, powerful storyteller, talented artist -- make for a winning combination. (January Magazine Best of 2013 Children's Books 2013-12-23)

About the Author

Sharon E. McKay is a bestselling, award-winning author. Her books include Enemy Territory and Thunder Over Kandahar. She divides her time between Charlottetown, PEI, and Toronto, Ontario.

Daniel Lafrance is a storyboard and graphic novel artist and has worked as an artist in the film industry for many years. He lives in Toronto.


Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad but important to share May 10 2014
Format:Paperback
This graphic novel deals with the very difficult subject of child soldiers. I find the topic both upsetting, and important to share. I think the author did a great job of showing that these soldiers are victims. Even the ones who commit atrocities do so under such duress that they feel they have no other option. That loss of innocence is mourned in the comic and beautifully illustrated through facial expressions and body language. Unlike many graphic novels, this one has a narration that I think of like a voice-over to a documentary. It works for me personally as a reader but I wonder if teens who read more comics that I do would prefer it to be more dialogue based.

I think this is something that could potentially be used in a classroom. It deals with history, social studies, art, and literature. It could spark a lot of discussion. It is mature subject matter, and I can see young teens becoming upset as they read it. I got emotional and frightened as I did. This is the point though, and I think it is essential that Canadian teens be aware of what goes on in the world. That it is in graphic novel form makes the story more accessible to youth, and I was relieved it wasn’t as gory as I feared while maintaining the serious nature of the story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 45 Minutes well spent Jan. 1 2014
By Rob Slaven TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
By now you know the spiel; I received this book through a GoodReads giveaway. Even though it was free I'm not above giving a crushing review to a free book. As further preamble, I don't seek out to read graphic novels but I will look at anything put in front of me, so here we go.

As I said in the intro, I'm not a comic books sort of reader in general so right off that puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. I don't have a whole lot to compare this to. In simple terms it was about a 45 minute read even with the distraction of pedaling an exercise bike the whole time. Being a comic book it's very easy to read and very accessible. The illustrations were well done, dark and foreboding. That fits well since the topic was itself so dark and foreboding. So as graphic novels go, absolutely no complaints at a technical level.

The content, as you have no doubt surmised from the publisher's description, surrounds the conscription of young men by Ugandan rebels. Written from the perspective of a young man who is a victim of this conscription, it does tend to tug at your heart strings. In the U.S. there's not a lot of awareness that this sort of thing goes on so I applaud the book for introducing this hitherto untold story to domestic readers. It tells the story in a heart-felt way but left me as a reader rather wanting more information. The graphic novel genre only supports so much throughput so this isn't an especially surprising eventuality.

To sum up, an interesting story told in far too brief a format. I wanted more data but what was presented was fairly intriguing. Not the most amazing thing I've ever read but certainly a 45 minutes well spent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, powerful & brutal May 20 2013
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Wow. Intense. Brutal. Moving. I have not read the YA novel this graphic has been adapted from, in fact, I'd never heard of it before not exactly being my type of YA reading. However, I do enjoy this type of material presented in the graphic format and this book caught my attention right away. The art is phenomenal and I was drawn into the story right away with the exceptional illustrations of the jungle and Ugandan life. It is really difficult to use a word like "enjoy" was describing how one felt about a book which deals with such a sad reality as child soldiers. There was nothing to "enjoy" in this story, except for the masterful storytelling which kept the humanity in the children who had been turned into brutal killing machines; that managed to show the deep faith of the people that may waver but comes back stronger in the end even when the rebel soldiers use God against the children to brain wash them into thinking they are fighting and killing for God. The book is a testimony to how religion does not start wars but how people use religion as a tool in their wars. Uganda is 84% Christian, which is common in African countries and this strength of faith is evident in the survival of the main characters and their healing afterwards.

The story is harsh and brutal but not graphic in visual detail. It will be dependent on the reader whether they can handle the reality of the material. If they can, I highly recommend this for ages 10 and up. The main characters range in age, but the main group is 12-14. An extremely important subject for western children to be made aware of when they are mature enough to handle it and this is the book that might just make an impact on their outlook. Powerful.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and worth reading Jan. 7 2014
By Travis Starnes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The book has a powerful message, one which is non-spoilerish. The entire book can be boiled down to this epilogue:” Where does the victim end and the criminal begin? Whom do we punish? Who is accountable? What happens when the child becomes an adult and continues his path of destruction?” This is all the book is about, seeing what is done to those children, how they are broken and twisted by the actions of others into inhuman killers. In time they will start the cycle again by abducting other children to enslave as soldiers, assuming they survive long enough. Are they to blame though? Do the adults in this book who take those children away bear all the guilt and need punishment for those crimes, or were they themselves merely continuing on the cycle that someone else started for them? It is a powerful message and made all the more poignant by the fact that this is all based on real accounts, so while the story itself is a fiction the events that are depicted are all real.

I would never chose to read a book like this and I will never read one by choice again, but it is definitely something that is worth reading. I have said similar sentiments about stories like the Crow and the Last of us, but while they are works of fiction and powerful in their own right, the fact that this is true (to a point) makes this all the more important. I cannot recommend this book, either as a comic or as a story because I did not enjoy it on either level. What I can say is that if you want to show someone a comic that breaks the mould and proves that comics are not for kids, then this is it. If you are interested in the subject or wish to read something that is not merely a throw away superhero story then this might be the book for you. For me, it is one of those stories that I simply wish to forget, but probably never will.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 45 Minutes well spent March 6 2013
By Rob Slaven - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
By now you know the spiel; I received this book through a GoodReads giveaway. Even though it was free I'm not above giving a crushing review to a free book. As further preamble, I don't seek out to read graphic novels but I will look at anything put in front of me, so here we go.

As I said in the intro, I'm not a comic books sort of reader in general so right off that puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. I don't have a whole lot to compare this to. In simple terms it was about a 45 minute read even with the distraction of pedaling an exercise bike the whole time. Being a comic book it's very easy to read and very accessible. The illustrations were well done, dark and foreboding. That fits well since the topic was itself so dark and foreboding. So as graphic novels go, absolutely no complaints at a technical level.

The content, as you have no doubt surmised from the publisher's description, surrounds the conscription of young men by Ugandan rebels. Written from the perspective of a young man who is a victim of this conscription, it does tend to tug at your heart strings. In the U.S. there's not a lot of awareness that this sort of thing goes on so I applaud the book for introducing this hitherto untold story to domestic readers. It tells the story in a heart-felt way but left me as a reader rather wanting more information. The graphic novel genre only supports so much throughput so this isn't an especially surprising eventuality.

To sum up, an interesting story told in far too brief a format. I wanted more data but what was presented was fairly intriguing. Not the most amazing thing I've ever read but certainly a 45 minutes well spent.
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book! Aug. 12 2014
By Laura Booksnob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
War Brothers. The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay
Artwork by Daniel Lafrance

War Brothers is based on true events about Kony and the LRA (Lords Resistance Army) and the kidnapping of children to conscript into their army of child soldiers. Told from the perspective of a child named Jacob, who lives in Uganda and who was kidnapped from school with his classmates.

War Brothers takes you through Jacob's harrowing journey into the forest and into the indoctrination of a child soldier. He watches his best friend succumb and kill innocent people for if he doesn't, he wouldn't be allowed to eat. Jacob protects a boy younger than him and constantly thinks about escape and the love of his father. He holds hope close to his heart to survive the nightmare that has become his life.

Jacob's story mirrors the story of so many children in the world today. Kony is still out there, stealing children and making them into soldiers and needs to be stopped. Young women kidnapped ultimately become slaves, or brides and are used for sex. Punishments for running away or not following orders are severe and many times, death sentences.

The artwork in War Brothers is stunning. The pages and panels vary from light pastel when things are going well for Jacob to pages that are dark and full of bold colors when Jacob is suffering. While this is a hard book to read because of the subject matter, the artwork is compelling and well-done and contributes to the power of the story.

There are so many issues in the world that need our attention and the issue of Child Soldiers should be at the top of the list. Child and soldier are two words that should not go together in our enlightened world.

Everyone needs to read this book!
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! April 24 2014
By Bethany Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thought that this graphic novel effectively told the story of a fictional child soldier in Uganda, especially being ostracized upon return to the village. However, I only gave it 4 stars because it was difficult to read on the Kindle. For some reason, it would not let me zoom in and I could only read it in landscape mode.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, it's a must read. March 9 2014
By Elle Markov - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I will tell you now that story is not for the faint of heart. It is a story of anguish and despair, it is a story of lost innocence, but it is also a story of hope. Though the book is a work of fiction, the story is no less real than ground beneath our feet.

Told from the point of a young boy named Jacob, abducted from his school to fight in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, we see him begin to question his faith and wonder why god would permit such atrocities in his name. But, even in the darkest of times Jacob holds on to a last shred of hope, that he will be reunited with his father.

This is by far one of the best graphic novels I have ever read; the depiction of the characters is so profound, you are able to feel their pain, their fears and their hope. As you read this book, your heart will go out to not only to the boys in the story, but the thousands of children lost to the corruption of god’s word by a man who cares only for himself.
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