Brothers in Hope

By School Library Journal

During the mid-1980s, Sudan was embroiled in civil war in which over two million lives were lost. Williams bases this fictional picture book on the harrowing, real-life experiences of a band of approximately 30,000 southern Sudanese boys, between the ages of 8 and 15, who walked nearly 1000 miles searching for a safe refuge. Eight-year-old Garang Deng, one of the leaders, tells his story. Traveling by night, foraging for food, plagued by violence, hunger, illness, and death, the journey is a perilous one. They finally make it to a refugee camp in Ethiopia where they meet an American named Tom who helps them. But fighting comes to Ethiopia, and once again the boys must flee, this time to Kenya. Tom is there to help. He takes down Garang’s story and tells him he will take the story to the U.S. to try to find some help for them. With Tom’s departure, life in the camps is very difficult, yet most boys manage to survive. When the man finally returns, Garang, now 21, asks, “Where have you been, Tom? Did you forget about us?” He explains that he has been spreading the news about the boys’ plight, and now the U.S. is offering them a home. Christie’s distinctive acrylic illustrations, done in broad strokes of predominantly green, yellow, and burnt orange, are arresting in their combination of realism and the abstract, and reflect the harshness yet hopeful nature of the landscape and the situation. An afterword tells what happened once 3800 of the boys resettled in America. This important profile in courage is one that belongs in most collections.