Thursday, July 25, 2013


Rafiq is only nine when Kashmiri Freedom Fighters raid his village in search of new recruits. Tall for his age, he is the first boy to cross the chalk line into a life of brutality and violence.

Jameela cannot forget her brother. While Rafiq is trained to kill in the rebel camp high in the mountains, she keeps his memory alive.

This is another book that I would have NEVER read on my own. It was assigned to me as part of my MFA residency because author Jane Mitchell is Irish. 

My little MFA group was super lucky, because Jane Mitchell is friends with our mentor, Edie Hemingway. So Jane actually came to our discussion of Chalkline at Trinity College and talked to us about the journey she took to write this book. Her story was fascinating, and I'm so glad I the opportunity to hear her talk about it!

This book is unlike anything I've ever read, and unlike anything I usually pick up. It's about a young boy who is kidnapped and basically brainwashed into becoming a child soldier for the Kashmiri Freedom Fighters. There is violence in this book. A lot of it. And it really confronts some heavy issues. What I liked the most about it was how much it made me think about myself - I found myself judging Rafiq for some of the things he did, but what would I do in his situation? I'm in no place to judge, really. So it prompted a lot of introspection. (Jane Mitchell said 9/11 was one of the things that prompted her to write this book, which was fitting for me because I thought about 9/11 a lot while reading it. I think about this a lot, actually - who would I be while trying to escape the burning twin towers? The person who helped people? The person who pushed people out of the way? The person who cowered in the corner? We all like to think we would be the person who helps people, but you don't know until you are there. The same thoughts were prompted by this book. I mean, honestly, what would you do in Rafiq's position?)

I can't wait to add this one to my classroom library. I think my students are really going to get a lot out of it. 

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today:

Nikki Katz is delighted by CHARM AND STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn
Stasia Ward Kehoe meanders into adult fiction to ponder LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
Gretchen McNeil  sings out for SECOND VERSE by Jennifer Walkup
Shari Arnold adores ALSO KNOWN AS (AKA) by Robin Benway
Tracy Banghart delves into TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini
Christine Fonseca is held captive by ABANDON by Elana Johnson

Katy Upperman shines a light on THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE by Jennifer E. Smith


  1. I hadn't heard of this one before, so thanks for mentioning it. I have to say, the whole child soldier thing simultaneously freaks me out and makes me want to know more about it (on purely "I wish I understood this" kind of way). It's so awful to think of these kids having their lives stolen from them as they're basically re-programmed. I think you raise excellent thought-provoking points here relating to 9/11. It really does make you wonder what your response would be in a similar situation. Thanks for the review and rec, Jess! :)

  2. Sounds like a very intense read. I hadn't heard of this one, so thanks for putting it on my radar. It actually sounds like a book my husband might be interested in reading, even though he's not a big fan of kid lit, generally. Lucky you getting to hear from the author herself. I imagine writing a book like this to be a very affecting experience.

    Thanks for the recommendation, Jess. I'll definitely be on the look out for this one!