Bamboo People

Bamboo People

by Mitali Perkins


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Narrated by two teenage boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of Burma's many ethnic minorities, this coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. Chiko isn't a fighter by nature. He's a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family's home and bamboo fields. Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion when the boys' stories intersect.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580893299
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication date: 07/01/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 127,284
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 11 - 14 Years

About the Author

Mitali Perkins is the author of several novels for children, including SECRET KEEPER, the First Daughter series, RICKSHAW GIRL, MONSOON SUMMER, and THE NOT SO STAR-SPANGLED LIFE OF SUNITA SEN. She lives in California.

Read an Excerpt

            Teachers wanted. Applicants must take examination in person. Salaries start at—
            “Chiko, come inside!” Mother calls through the screen door, her voice low and urgent.
            On the road behind our house, horns toot, sirens blare, and bicycle rickshaws crowd the streets. A high cement wall and a barrier of bamboo muffle the noise, making our garden seem as private as a monastery. But it isn’t. I could be spotted from the houses nearby, and spies are everywhere. They would betray even an old neighbor for extra ration cards.
            I scan the rest of the announcement quickly, my heart racing.
            “Chiko! Now!” Mother startles the flock of green parakeets perched on the birdbath, and they fly away.
            I fold the newspaper around A Tale of Two Cities and head for the house. I want to tell Mother about the call for teachers in the paper, but it seems like she’s getting more anxious by the day. So am I, even though I wish I didn’t have to admit that. I’m tired of hiding, of worrying, and worst of all, of remembering again and again the day the soldiers came for Father. Remembering how I’ve failed him.
            “You shouldn’t be reading out there,” Mother tells me, peering out through the screen after latching the door behind me.
            I take a deep breath and push my glasses back. It’s now or never. “No harm in reading the government newspaper. There’s a notice—”
            But she’s not listening. “We’ll talk about that later, Chiko. How could you take one of your father’s books outside? Do you want to end up in prison, too?”
            She’s right—I shouldn’t have brought the book out there. The government gets suspicious when a Burmese boy reads English books. But I don’t answer her questions. What can I say? That it already feels like I’m in prison? I take the novel out of the newspaper. The worn cloth cover is still warm from the sunshine. “Read widely, Chiko,” Father used to say. “Great doctors must understand human nature in order to heal.”
            “Hide it right now, Chiko,” Mother says sharply. “Wait. Let me draw the blinds.”
            The dim room grows even darker. I reach behind the large painting of a white elephant, and we hear the familiar click. The painting swings open silently, like a well-oiled door. Hidden behind it is the cabinet Father built to conceal his battered black medical bag, books, and papers.
            The books are in the same order as he left them, and I slip A Tale of Two Cities into place. There are a dozen medical and college textbooks, but we also own the complete works of Shakespeare, a book about Buddha’s teachings, the Christian Holy Bible, a few slim volumes of British poetry, an illustrated Oxford dictionary, some Burmese books (like the Jakata tales and verses by Thakin Kodaw Hmaing and Tin Moe), novels by Indian and Russian writers like Rabindranath Tagore and Fyodor Dostoevsky,
The Arabian Nights, and a set of books by Charles Dickens. These are our family treasures—faded, tattered, and well read.
            I’m one of the few boys in town who can read and write in Burmese and English. It’s only because of Father. Schools around here close down so often it’s hard to learn, but I studied at home.
            Father’s favorite books explain the secrets and mysteries of the human body, from bones to blood to cells to nerves. I always loved stories the best—books about heroes and quests and adventures, books where everything turns out fine in the end. I tried to pretend to be interested in science, but Father wasn’t fooled; he used the novels as prizes after we studied science.
            It’s no use remembering the good times we had. I think I miss the sound of him the most. His voice—reading, talking, or laughing—steadied the house like a heartbeat. These days I only hear the conversation of Mother and her friends. If this keeps up, my own voice might reverse itself and start sounding high and sweet again.
            I remember the last time I heard Father speak—almost four months ago. “Take care of your mother, Chiko!” he shouted as six or seven army officers shoved him into a van.
            “I will, Father!” I answered, hoping he heard.
            But have I kept that promise? No! All I’ve done is hide, and that’s not good enough with our money running out. And it’s terrible to go without news of him. The same thought keeps both Mother and me awake at night, even though we never say it to each other. Is he alive?


Excerpted from "Bamboo People"
by .
Copyright © 2012 Mitali Perkins.
Excerpted by permission of Charlesbridge.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Bamboo People 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gret book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very good it is very exciting and interesting
RosanaSantana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chiko is forced to fight for the Burmese army. During a mission he meets Tu Reh, a Karenni rebel fighter. A wonderful heartfelt story told from both sides. Not overly violent which is good for jr. high students.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chiko wanted to be a teacher, but was kidnapped and forced to be a soldier in the Burmese army. Sent out with a squad as the disposable front man, he steps on a mine. Tu Reh, a Karenni, remembers when the Burmese burnt his village. Is rescuing an injured Burmese soldier and bringing him to their refugee camp the right thing to do?
booksandwine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You know what sucks? Being a child soldier. For real. One day you are making googly eyes at your hot neighbor, the next you are tricked into joining the army and have no option of leaving. Did I mention your family doesn't know where you are? For many teens in Burma/Myanmar, this is a reality. I definitely did not know very much about child soldiers until reading the superb book Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins.Bamboo People follows the civil strife in Burma, between the Karenni which is a splinter ethnic minority living in the region and the Burmese who are told that the Karenni are evil. The book is written in two distinct halves. One half is narrarated by Chiko, a 15 year old Burmese boy who dreams of teaching. Instead, he finds himself caught up in war. The last half is narrarated by Tu Reh, a Karenni boy who lives in a refugee camp and also fights the Burmese.This book provides a powerful look at war and it's role in the lives of young people. We see the results of choices and how they impact a situation for better or worse. We see there are humans on both sides. Rarely is war so simple as good guys vs. bad guys.I found Bamboo People to be quite thought-provoking. It has made me interested in finding out more about this conflict. Let's be honest, I don't often think about Burma. What I think is fabulous is when a book like this can raise the topic and put it on my radar.
ericajsc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was difficult for me to read, not because of the writing, but because of the content. It¿s tough to read about kids being forced into war, or about families being displaced for no reason other than the tribe they belong to. I ache as I think about these characters because I know that, though they are fictional, the stories are not. Perkins has taken a grave story and inserted a little bit of hope into it.I was a little hesitant to start this book, not because I didn¿t think it would be good or worth the time invested in it, but because I knew it would be intense. As a result, I delayed picking it up, then had a little bit of a hard time really getting into the story. But thirty pages into the book, I was hooked. I was anxious for Chiko as he must leave his family behind and fight in a war for a government that is imprisoning his father. Once his story collided with Tu Reh¿s, I felt like there was a mad rush to get to the end of the book and find out how everything would be resolved for the two of them. I just didn¿t want to put it down.As a character, Chiko¿s growth didn¿t seem to be dramatic, but was still rewarding to watch. There is a moment when everything changes for him, and his choice in that moment amazed me. Tu Reh, on the other hand, despises everything about where he is in life. His journey seemed very obvious from the beginning, but I was glad to walk it along with him and experience those emotions from his perspective. The two boys provided a good balance to each other in how they viewed the war. I hope that lots of readers out there choose to pick up this book. My fear is that the lack of knowledge about Burma and the unfamiliar names will scare many off, especially younger readers, but it shouldn¿t. This story, at its core, is about two boys in undesirable circumstances and their struggles to improve those circumstances. They may be far away and speak in foreign languages, but they are just like so many of us here in America, with dreams for the future and hopes for a peaceful life.
ewyatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chiko feels pressure to provide for his mother after his father has been jailed. When he goes to a meeting to become a teacher, he is forced in the military in Burma. He forms a reluctant bond with a street boy, Tai, and they are instrumental in helping each other survive. Chiko's story intersects with Tu Reh, a Karenni boy living in a refugee camp, who are on opposing sides of this conflict. Tu Reh must decide how much he is willing to help Chiko, an "enemy". The book explores the complexity of life and conflict in Burma. I found it to be an engrossing story!
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fifteen year old Chiko is tricked into joining the Burmese army. Tu Reh is a Karenni boy, trapped between wanting to fight the soldiers that destroyed his home and wanting to promote peace as his religious teachings dictate. In the middle of the Burmese jungle, these two boys will meet and neither will ever be the same. While I appreciate that this is a book that will help raise the consciousness of readers, it just wasn't my cup of tea. There was a lot of talking and not as much action as I expected a book about child soldiers to have. I also found it hard to keep all the characters straight in the second part of the book (there were a lot of them and they all had similar names). That said, many people I respect have loved this book, so I think it's just a case of it not being the right book for me. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
June 4th, 2014 Bamboo People Book Review By Palma Piccinino Bamboo People Mitali Perkins 3/5 stars  Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is a novel that is divided into two different sections. The novel focuses on the personal stories of certain individuals that are revolved around the war/resistance between Burma and the Karenni tribe. The first section is about the boys training and preparing to become part of the Burmese army. The section second is coming from the opposite perspective, the Karenni tribe. These sections are connected because Tu Reh, a Karenni, finds an injured boy from Burma and decides to save him.  Although Bamboo People was initially enticing, as the book progressed, I found myself less interested in the novel for several reasons.  In better description, section 1 is about a boy named Chiko, whose father was captured by the government for resistance. Chiko understands that he needs to support his mot\her, so he goes to what he thinks is a teaching interview. Little does he know, it is actually a trick, and Chiko along with many other young males are sent to a camp to train to become a Burmese soldier. At camp, Chiko meets a boy named Tai, who used to live in the streets. Tai and Chiko become a great duo since Tai teaches Chiko to be tough and Chiko teaches Tai to write. They are separated when Chiko is told he needs to go spy on the Karenni to see how much supplies and weaponry they had.  This is when section two begins.  When section two begins, Chiko is injured and Tu Reh, a Karenni, makes the decision to save him. The second section leads us through the life of Tu Reh and his family. This book has several weaknesses but it also has several strengths. One disappointment of the book is the abrupt separation between the two sections. The sections did not seem to flow very well and this made the second section a bit more confusing.  Another fault is Chiko and Tu Reh’s relationship. They never form a strong relationship and this may be the intention, but it makes for an uninteresting story.  One strength of the book is the focus on Chiko and Tai’s relationship. They develop an almost unbreakable bond. It is very interesting to see how much they complement each other as individuals. They make a wonderful and strong team. Another positive of the book has is showing Chiko and Tai growing as people. The first section included many details about their progression. Chiko is learning to become stronger, physically and mentally because of Tai. Tai is learning to write and he is becoming more intelligent every day.  The genre of the novel is a mixture between fiction, adventure and war. Anyone who is interested in adventure and war novels should definitely look into this book. In regards to difficulty and appropriate reading age for this novel, I would recommend anybody ages 13 (8th grade) and upwards. Either gender would enjoy this novel equally.  Mitali Bose Perkins was born in Calcutta, India. Mitali studied political science at Stanford University and public policy at U.C. Berkeley, surviving academia thanks to a steady diet of kids' books from public libraries and bookstores, and went on to teach middle school, high school, and college students. Mitali Perkins does not have any awards to this day? She is praised for her brilliant and focused writing. Other books by this author include: Rickshaw Girl, Monsoon Summer, The Sunita Experiment and more. There are no other books in this series. Perkins has actually led a very eventful life. She has lived in many different places. She lived in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and California with her husband and twin sons before the Perkins family moved to Newton, Massachusetts, where they currently live. They claim to be settled in as of now.  All in all, yes, I would recommend his novel. I would specifically recommend the first section as I find the second section somewhat unnecessary. The first section is very enticing, detailed and interesting to read. The second section I would not recommend reading because it seems a bit random even though it is loosely connected to the first section. The first section was a “page-turner” and I never found myself bored reading it. I tended to skim the second section as I found myself quickly losing interst. I would give section one a 4/5 stars and section two a 2/5 stars. Overall, the book would earn 3/5 stars. In my opinion, the book in entirety is a quality book to read for school purposes but I would not read it in my free time. The book was average and I did not love it, but I did not dislike it either. Although section one of The Bamboo People was very enticing, the second section was poorly executed. The ideas in section two were weak and confusing. That being said, I did enjoy the dynamics and perspective that section two incorporated. Section one was coming from the perspective of the Burmese. Section two was coming from the perspective of the Karenni tribe. This gave readers the perspective of both sides, which can be a great idea as long as it is properly executed. The lesson of the story is that if you have a strong friendship, you can get through anything. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a waist of money. It is very boring. 1000000 pages of stupid nonsense
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book and I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago