A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk
By Jan Coates
(Red Deer Press, Paperback, 9780889954519, 286pp.)
Publication Date: February 2011
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In the little village of Duk Padiet in southern Sudan, a boy named Jacob Deng thrives on the love of his mother, the companionship of his sisters, the excitement of learning how to look after his uncle’s herds of cattle. The year is 1987, and suddenly in the night soldiers from the north invade the village, looting, burning, and killing. The war has arrived, and the life of Jacob will never be the same. This novel is based on the real life experiences of a Sudanese boy who, with thousands of other boys from the region, fled for his life and spent seven years walking through deserts, grasslands and forests, crossing crocodile-infested rivers, surviving life in massive refugee camps. The so-called Lost Boys of Sudan – as they were called by an American aid organization – numbered as many as 27,000, and while many died – from starvation, attacks by wild animals, drowning, or through the brutality of the military – many survived. Jacob never returned to his village, but though he was only seven years old when he had to flee, he somehow managed to live through an almost unimaginable ordeal. Throughout the seven years covered in this story, Jacob resists the temptation to join the liberation army. Steadily Jacob finds himself more and more adhering to his mother’s advice that getting an education is crucial to escaping the cycle of violence that afflicts his country. Jacob’s struggle, then, is to persist in seeking out teachers and eventually a school where his ambition to learn about the world can be met. Through it all he learns about loyalty and love for close friends who have been thrust together with him on this extraordinary journey, and also about the guiding light provided by the memory of his mother.
Jan Coates has woven Jacob's story into novel form so that young Canadian readers can learn more about this heroic youn man, his ordeal, and his hope for his homeland. Jan in the author of Rainbows in the Dark (2005). She lives in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
Jacob Deng now lives in Nova Scotia, is married and has a young family. His foundation, Wadeng Wings of Hope, seeks to build schools for young children in southern Sudan.
Jacob Deng was 7 years old when the northern militia invaded and destroyed his village in Southern Sudan, sending Jacob and thousands of other boys on an exodus to Ethiopia. The “never-ending chain” of boys followed the rising sun to safety, braving lion and crocodile attacks, mosquitoes and malaria, poisonous snakes, scorpions, gunfire and bombs. After three years in Pinyudo Refugee Camp, the refugees were chased out of Ethiopia and walked on to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where Jacob began to sense his place in the world as a storyteller, translator and writer. Inspired by Jacob’s true story, Coates writes vividly and poetically, establishing a clear historical context for her inspirational tale. One sketchy map is included, but a series of good maps would have helped young readers better visualize Jacob’s journey. A good match with Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water (2010) and Mary Williams’ picture book Brothers in Hope, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2005). From the beginning, Jacob Deng embodied the spirit of Wadeng, the faith that tomorrow will be better, and by the end of the tale, Jacob as storyteller and writer is poised to enter a wider world, where “there are as many books in the world as there are stars in the African sky.” (Historical fiction. 12 & up) -Kirkus
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