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Finding Peace, Love and Injustice in Sierra Leone

by Kathleen Martin

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african american, values & virtues
list price: $19.95
published: 2011
publisher: Red Deer Press
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Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

Kamakwie: Finding Peace, Love and Injustice in Sierra Leone

Travelling with a medical team from World Hope Canada, journalist Kathleen Martin went to Sierra Leone in 2008, to write a book about child poverty and health care issues in the aftermath of the devastating civil war that tore Sierra Leone apart between 1991 and 2002. This exceptionally poignant book is the result of her visit to the village of Kamakwie, where she spent several weeks hearing the stories of children and adults and documenting their lives.

Anecdotal stories with buoyant full-page colour photographs give readers not only a sense of the enormous economic issues that face this community — which, Martin neatly notes, is just one tiny village affected by the tragedy of the civil war — but also of the wonderfully vibrant community’s resilience and desire to move on from the wounds of the past. What works best is Martin’s ability to give her readers a sense of her own personal journey and understanding of both the huge challenges facing a village like Kamakwie and the small gestures that make an inordinate difference, especially in the lives of the children. Martin isn’t shy about showing her own shortcomings, and this makes the book intimate in the best possible way. Her clearly articulated aim is to give readers an entree into Kamakwie and leave them with her own sense of the wonderful people of the village — especially the memorable children. Her book is the story of Marie, Brimah, Binty, Abu and Isotu, among so many others, rather than faceless survivors of the civil war.

But while this is a thoughtful and insightful book, this reader did wonder if teen readers find it engaging. It’s certainly a powerful book that asks difficult questions of Western nations — why didn’t we step in? Why did we not intervene when we could have? What can we do for the people of villages like Kamakwie? Martin has given us a passionate, compelling and challenging portrait of a world that most of us only know of through the media; hopefully teens will be moved to read it.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2012. Volume 35 No. 3.

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Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature finalist, 2013The Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada's Information Book Award finalist, 20122013 Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature nominee

Sierra Leone is the poorest country in Africa. Yet it is populated by people who are hopeful, and aspire to better themselves through education, proper health care, and through putting behind them the horrors of civil war.

Kathleen Martin spent several weeks in the tiny village of Kamakwie in the interior of the West African country. Here she spoke to the people - and the children -- about their lives, their aspirations, their memories of war. The experience was a revelation, which she has so wonderfully chronicled in this moving and inspiring portrait of a people willing to forgive so they can look to the future with regained hope and dignity.

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Contributor notes

Kathleen Martin
is an editor, writer, and executive director of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network. She is the author of six non-fiction books for children. She lives in Halifax.

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Editorial Review

"Kamakwie is a wonderful piece of literature that has the ability to touch the hearts and minds of North Americans. It is refreshing to see Ms. Martin translate the lives of youth affected by war in Sierra Leone in such a powerful, yet honest and hopeful manner."

Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, author of the best-selling, Governor General's Award winner Shake Hands With the Devil.

"Buy this book. Read it yourself and share it with your children and your students and the world will be changed. It is impossible to be unmoved by this tragic but inspiring story of individuals who have seen the worst and still have hope. . . "Kamakwie is not a tragedy. It is a story of resilience and joy. Whether they were able to flee the war or were forced to stay and endure, everyone has a story, but, remarkably, the photos provide evidence of people who are allowing themselves to smile again. People have hope for a better future for their children, but that future doesn't include passing on hatred and bitterness for the wounds of the past."
Highly Recommended.
CM Magazine

"The purpose of Martin's story seems to be twofold: on one hand, she wants to showcase a people striving for progress and finding joy wherever possible, on the other, she wants to remind the world that we knew what was going on during Sierra Leone's civil war. . . Martin encourages readers. . . to do whatever they can to help people in need. The lesson that will hopefully linger long after reading is that, in Martin's words, 'it is not anger that will fix injustice. It is love. Boundless.'"
Quill & Quire

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About the Author

Kathleen Martin

Kathleen Martin is an editor, writer, and executive director of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network. She is the author of six non-fiction books for children. She lives in Halifax.
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