They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers by Roméo Dallaire

Random House Canada. Purchased at Concordia University Bookstore.

Retired Lieutenant-General Roméo A. Dallaire gives a detailed description of the issues governments and NGOs face as they try to stop the use of child soldiers in conflicts around the world. Thanks to his military background and his first-hand experience with child soldiers during the Rwandan genocide, Lt-General Dallaire is able to give a clear account on how and why children are used in armed conflict. He says candidly that the key to stopping this epidemic of child soldiers is prevention as he explains the inadequate resources to rehabilitate former child soldiers. He details the work of the Child Soldier Initiative foundation and his work in getting military and humanitarian organizations to work collaboratively to prevent the use of children in war. He ends the book with a plea to the reader to become involved and he lists the many ways the public can help organizations fighting the use of child soldiers.

I found this book powerful because in addition to the raw facts, Lt-General Dallaire has chosen to include two fictional accounts to illustrate the issues surrounding the use of child soldiers. This first account is the story of a boy who is taken from his village after seeing his family murdered. It shows his transition from child to soldier and his eventual death at the hands of a U.N. soldier. The second story is told from the point of view of a U.N. soldier who kills an opponent during a skirmish with rebel forces only to realize that the “soldier” he shot is just a child.

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Book Review: Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin

Grand Central Publishing. Received review copy via netgalley.com

Two Kisses for Maddy by Matt Logelin is a wonderful tribute to his daughter Madeline and his late wife Liz.  The book takes you through Matt and Liz’s courtship, the difficult pregnancy, Liz’s unexpected death and the first year Maddy’s life. It’s a heartbreaking but uplifting story. Through the sadness you catch glimpses of Matt’s sense of humour. Matt is frank about how clueless he is with dealing with his wife’s death and raising a daughter on his own but his love for Liz and Maddy shines through as well as his determination to do what’s best for Maddy.

This book shows that when it comes to grief there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  The situation “fucking sucks” as Matt says and it’s OK to cry and swear. Everyone must find their own personal way of dealing with loss though, as you can see through Matt’s experience, reaching out to family, friends and sometimes even strangers is of great help.

Book Review: Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Little Princes by Conor Grennan opened my eyes to the suffering of children who are victims of child trafficking in Nepal. It was hard learning about the kids being separated from their families and dumped in Kathmandu but it was reassuring to read of the selfless people who look after the rescued children.  I loved reading about Conor’s relationship with the kids. His love for the kids and his appreciation of their individual personalities really comes through in his writing.  These children are resilient but they still need someone to care for them. They definitely found that someone in Conor Grennan who, after setting up Next Generation Nepal, goes on several risky trips to the remote regions of the county to find the children’s parents. All in all, a very inspiring read and I have to admit that his account of how he met his wife Liz certainly appealed to the romantic in me. I would love to spend time abroad in a volunteer capacity and reading Little Princes reinforced my goal to do so.

For more information on Conor Grennan’s organization Next Generation Nepal and other organizations trying to help victims of child trafficking in Nepal, please visit:

Next Generation Nepal

The Umbrella Foundation

Also, Conor Grennan was guest editor for The Afterword in the National Post, here are his posts:

What Makes a Writer

A Great Pick-Up Line

What’s Interesting To Others

The Subjects of Your Memoir

Book Review: Al Capone: Chicago’s King of Crime by Nate Hendley

Received review copy from Five Rivers Publishing

I haven’t read any other books on Al Capone so I can’t compare but Mr. Hendley seems to have summarized the existing research on Capone (which I’m sure is extensive) and added his own thoughts and research. The result is concise and to the point much like a long magazine article. The book illustrates how Capone rose from his humble beginnings in New York as the son of Italian immigrants to become Chicago’s top gangster.

A few points I found interesting: 1. Capone’s paradoxical behaviour, he was smart, ambitious and a ruthless killer but also a loyal family man. 2. Chicago in the 20s and 30s was practically lawless! I find it amazing that all that violence took place without much of a reaction by the police. 3. After all the murder and mayhem, Capone goes to jail for tax evasion. 4. I had no idea that Capone eventually died from complications of Syphilis.
A very informative read. I would have liked to know more about Capone’s state of mind while running his empire but I guess that is a book in itself.

Note: I’m a fan of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and a young Al Capone is featured in the series. The series takes place in Atlantic City but you can picture how Capone was able to rise to power in Chicago: another city with extremely corrupt cops and politicians during the Prohibition era.

            

The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran… by Dirk Hayhurst

I won this book in a contest and didn’t have any expectations about it but I absolutely loved it! In this biographical work, Dirk Hayhurst takes you through the last few years of his baseball career in the minor leagues when he starts to question whether it’s worth it to spend another year fighting to stay in the minors just to keep his dream of playing in the big leagues alive.
In between his moments of introspection, Hayhurst vividly describes the good, the bad and the ugly of life in the minors. He hilariously describes the shenanigans of his teammates, members of that particular breed of savages also known as baseball players. I couldn’t help laughing out loud while reading, much to the consternation of my fellow bus riders.
This book made me realize that not every player instantly becomes a major leaguer with multi-million dollar contracts. Most guys have to work at it and many never make it at all. Also, there’s no glamour in the life of a minor league player, it’s hours of bus travel, bad food and sometimes even worse accommodations.
All in all, you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book. Hayhursts’s account is much more than a book about baseball. It’s a book about choices, personal identity, friendship and family. It’s a book about life.

Won via CBC Books Twitter contest