Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Never Fall Down, by Patricia McCormick

Never Fall Down is a gripping tale of the killing fields in Cambodia, told from the perspective of a man who suffered through this time when he was a child. Never Fall Down is fiction, because McCormick had to add some details and fill in some blanks, but it is based on a true story.

One day when Arn was about 11 years old, the army, called the Khmer Rouge, made everyone leave their houses and march to "safety" because they were going to be attacked. They assured the people that they would return to their homes in three days. Thus began years of an internal genocide that killed nearly two million people -- 1/3 of the population of Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge killed on a whim. They put everyone in camps.They killed any professionals (only farmers were worth anything.) They separated men from women and adults from children. They worked everyone in the rice fields until they literally dropped. Arn is a true survivor. He became somewhat favored because he was chosen to play music. Any extra food he received (which still wasn't much) was shared with the kids in his camp. Eventually, when the Vietnamese invaded, everyone was forced to leave the camps and Arn was forced to become a soldier.

Never Fall Down doesn't explain much about the politics of what was going on. I really don't understand why this happened. It seems like genocide is often based on religion, but that didn't seem to be the case in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge was Communist, but not all Communist takeovers were like this.

Fortunately, Never Fall Down is a very short book. Because even at its short length, I was really done reading about all the senseless brutality, starvation, and killing by the time I got finished. I think the book might be difficult for some teen readers because it is written as Arn would speak -- in broken English. For example, "You not allowed to go around by yourself at night." Verbs are left out; plurals are not used. It makes for authenticity, but I'm not sure I can recommend this to struggling or reluctant readers.

Never Fall Down is an important book that would be of interest to anyone wanting to know more about what the Cambodians experienced during this time. It's not an easy read, but I would still recommend it because of its authentic content.

Published by Balzer + Bray 2012
Copy obtained from the library
216 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5





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2 comments:

  1. I like Patricia McCormick, she is so good at what she does! I liked this book, but you're right, it is intense. Such an important series of events for students to learn about. When I traveled to Cambodia I got sucked into learning all about it

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  2. I really appreciate this review. I homeschool my kids and like them to read books about the different historical time periods we study, especially when first hand accounts are involved. We haven't gotten to this time period, but I saw this book recently and mentally set it aside for my oldest son. It sounds intense, but I'm glad you said it's short. Sounds like I should read it before I give it to him to read. But it still sounds like an important read. Thanks for the review!

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