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Children's Fiction Africa

War Brothers

The Graphic Novel

by (author) Sharon McKay

illustrated by Daniel Lafrance

Annick Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2013
Recommended Age
14 to 18
Recommended Grade
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2009
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2013
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


When fourteen-year-old Jacob is brutally abducted and forced to become a child soldier, he struggles to hold on to his sanity and the will to escape.

Daniel Lafrance’s striking artwork and the poignant, powerful text capture the very essence of life as a child soldier. Readers will never forget the experiences of this young boy struggling to survive, unsure who to trust, afraid of succumbing to madness, and above all, desperate to get to freedom. In the end, Jacob engineers a daring escape.

This graphic novel is based on the acclaimed novel of the same title, winner of a 2009 Arthur Ellis award. The author spent time in Uganda and based this story on real-life accounts of the horrors inflicted on child soldiers and their victims. This is a story of unthinkable violence, but also one of hope, courage, friendship, and family.

About the authors

Sharon McKay is an award-winning author of many books for parents and children, including Penelope from the Our Canadian Girl series. Her first young adult novel, Charlie Wilcox, won the Geoffrey Bilson Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award and the Ruth Schwartz Award. Charlie Wilcox's Great War, the sequel, was nominated for a 2003 Red Maple Award. Esther, her most recent novel for young adults, was shortlisted for a 2004 Governor General's Award.


Sharon McKay's profile page

Daniel Lafrance is a storyboard and graphic novel artist. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Daniel Lafrance's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“A truly important work that is well worth the read.”

School Library Journal, starred review

Librarian Reviews

War Brothers

Jacob loves school – especially Math. His father is well-to-do and, so although there are many others in his homeland of Uganda who do not have his opportunities, Jacob is very proud of being a student at the George Jones Seminary for Boys. There are serious dangers lurking around him, but Jacob feels far removed from them, even though he knows the LRA, or Lord’s Resistance Army, steals Ugandan children from their homes and villages, from buses and schools. They are forced to fight as soldiers and work as slaves in the name of their leader, Joseph Kony, head of a brutal rebel movement.

As Jacob and his two best friends – Tony and Paul – begin their new term at boarding school, their headmaster entrusts them with the mentoring of a much younger mathematics protégé, Norman. The boys outwardly promise to take care of him, when inwardly, guiltily, they know he will be left on the sidelines until he makes his own friends.

Then the LRA breaks into Jacob’s dorm, abducting 38 boys – including Jacob, Tony, Paul and Norman. Suddenly, the boys are thrown together in a desperate alliance for survival, in a world where everything is upside down. Any loyalties are forbidden.

Told from Jacob’s point of view, this novel reveals the horrifying story of the ensuing three months of terror – of starvation, exhaustion, isolation, and the threat of torture or a violent death at every turn. Almost any “infraction” (speaking to or trying to help others, attempting to rest during hours of forced daily marching, or eating without having first “joined the fold” by committing murder during the frequent village raids) is punishable by decapitation, whipping or death. Even the boys’ precious Catholic faith is perverted by their captors, and God is twisted into a power who encourages war, murder and heartlessness. Memories of a safe, ordered life fade, and in Jacob’s unreal reality, only prayer, stolen moments with his friends, and the patterned predictability of numbers and mental math keep him sane.

Under these circumstances, Jacob and his friends must look out for each other – and little Norman – entirely in secret. The four become a family, bound together by their nightmarish common experience. It quickly becomes apparent that if they are to survive, they must rely on each other and use their own cunning, intelligence and courage to escape.

Complete with a glossary of terms and phrases used in Jacob’s dialect, and an author’s note describing how readers can and should get involved with organizations that help real children like Jacob, Sharon McKay’s War Brothers is a chillingly accurate, meticulously researched, and ultimately hopeful fictional account of the very real plight of child soldiers in Uganda. It is a challenging, fiercely intense book that brings mature readers face to face with evil, victimization, grief, and the dark side of human nature, but also with intrigue, adventure, suspense, loyalty, friendship, and the true meaning of family. Anyone who reads this book must be willing to part with every vestige of political apathy in their bones!

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2008. Vol.31 No.4.

Addiction - Self-Destructive Behaviour War Brothers

Jacob and Oteka’s lives become intertwined as they find themselves in the clutches of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, forced to obey the odd and brutal rules of Joseph Kony’s henchmen. Marching through harsh terrain with little food or water, they form a plan to make their escape.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2009.

Other titles by Sharon McKay