Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “War Child: A Child Soldier's Story” as Want to Read:
War Child: A Child Soldier's Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

War Child: A Child Soldier's Story

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,288 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
In the mid-1980s, Emmanuel Jal was a seven year old Sudanese boy, living in a small village with his parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. But as Sudan’s civil war moved closer—with the Islamic government seizing tribal lands for water, oil, and other resources—Jal’s family moved again and again, seeking peace. Then, on one terrible day, Jal was separated from his mother, ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about War Child, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about War Child

Blood River by Tim ButcherThings Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
278th out of 1,228 books — 1,208 voters
Facing the Son, A Novel of Africa by M.L. RudolphThings Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeBuck by M.K. AsanteNightmare Along the River Nile by S. E. NelsonThe Helpers by S. E. Nelson
Africa and the Diaspora
28th out of 88 books — 52 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Puoch Dit
I feel the same way when I read the previews of Emmanuel Jal or Jal in short in Nuer language book. I knew it has been a long journey toward the peace process in Sudan, but hope is what generate me days and nights for my 21 years of waiting for the peace to pop up in Sudan, which indeed happened in 2005. As a former child soldier myself, I knew how hard it is to live and go through the process of bad things. I couldn't agree more on Jal is reflections on those things that happened to him during ...more
An at-times horrifying read, but in the end a truly inspiring biography and a great portrayal of the awful ways war affects children and young adults.

"War Child" is not for someone inclined to freak out at explicit descriptions of violence and misery, or famine-level poverty, hatred (at times racial hatred) and frustration. Jal has lived through a lot and here he does not shy away from describing any of it, from the blood and guts to the racial tension and hatred.

Jal was a child soldier with the
Feb 25, 2009 Richard rated it it was amazing
see my Blog on War Child at: or go to

In the last several years there have been a number of books about the horrors of child soldiers and the horrors occurring in various parts of Africa, including the best seller A Long Way Gone by Ishamael Beah (Sierra Leone), Emma’s War by Deborah Scroggins, and What Is the What by David Eggers.

Now comes one from Emmanuel Jal, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. It is excellent and deserves a wide audie
Jul 02, 2015 Paula3 rated it really liked it
A first person account from one of the Lost Boys of Sudan that will leave you saddened, yet hopeful. Emmanuel Jal truly explemplifies the resiliency of the human spirit and how one never knows how we can affect the lives of those we meet. Jal provides very vivid and detailed accounts of the atrocities of war and the disturbing way young children are trained to become soldiers. As much as this book broke my heart, it also reminded me that there are so many areas in our world where people, especia ...more
Jordan Barnes
Oct 01, 2014 Jordan Barnes rated it it was amazing

Recently, I finished reading the book, War Child: A Child Soldiers Story by Emmanuel Jal. Jal has done three movies, written many books and has made numerous songs; all describing hardships and painful moments in life. All of his creations are aimed towards the youth, trying to reach out to them and saying that bad times come and go; but there is always a way to escape them.
The main character, Emmanuel Jal, was an eleven year old boy who lived in Sudan with his mom, dad, two sisters, and aunts
Rob Skirving
Jul 13, 2015 Rob Skirving rated it it was amazing
A great, quick read, written well.

Picked up this book after hearing Emmanuel Jal in concert at the Wild Goose Festival. His concert was powerful, with most of the crowd up dancing and singing with him..

Appreciated having the chance to learn his story, as a war child and as an extended family member of Riek Machar, someone still involved in South Sudanese politics. Certainly helped me build on my understanding of Sudan and its recent struggles. Most of my experience has been with Dinka people and
Nancy Johnson
Sep 11, 2015 Nancy Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a true story about a Sudanese boy who willingly became a child soldier to get revenge on Arabs, who had destroyed his village and family. It’s a harrowing story from Emmanuel’s point of view, that stems from his love of his village and mother. His hatred drives him to exact revenge against the Arabs and train to be the best boy soldier, in all that entails. He then details his break away from the soldiers to the refugee camp and how his drive changed to a need for education, make Christi ...more
Dec 10, 2014 Cat rated it it was amazing
I judge most things by their flaws, as is probably obvious by now. It is incredibly easy to do so, but I cannot do so for this book. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody with time on their hands. This is one of the stories that needs to be told and heard.

This book deserves all five stars for the story it recounts. The prose isn't anything particularly flowery, but I personally felt the prose suited the situation; the more vulnerable the better I think, nothing to dress up or otherw
Jul 01, 2013 Sky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't have the background in Sudanese (and regional) history to judge the veracity of everything in this book, but even if it was only 1/2 true, it would still be an astonishing story.

I haven't had much luck reading autobiographical books lately, so it was nice to finally finish one that was good.
Isaac Montes-Tecson
Dec 08, 2015 Isaac Montes-Tecson rated it it was amazing
This book is an outstanding book! I fell in love with it while reading the first page and instantly wanted to read more. This book really gives you a solid perspective of how it is living in a civil war in your own country. The way the author gets you attached to his experience is really amazing, and wants you to feel what he felt during the story. I'm pretty sure you haven't been forced to join a rebel group, but Jal has and he knows how it feels to kill a man. He was pushed to his limits and d ...more
Apr 03, 2015 Jonathan rated it liked it
An interesting an important account that is truly written in the author's voice. Unfortunately towards the second half of the book it becomes far less interesting when he starts talking about his Christian faith and his rap career.
It is uplifting as a whole, and you can tell that the publisher let the author write the book in his own voice. The author is a relatively good storyteller but not a particularly good writer, so it becomes tiresome towards the second half. I think more collaboration w
Serena :)
Jun 16, 2009 Serena :) rated it it was amazing
Keeping it short, this book is simply inspiring.

Emmanuel Jal is just one of thousands Lost Boys of Sudan, the boys forced into a bitter and evil civil war between the north and the south of Sudan. This is the story of the horror's he faced, and all the violence and destruction he witnessed and was a part of.

This book was not at all what I expected. It opened my eyes to the truth, and blew me away with its confronting look at something other books might try to avoid writing about. Never once di
Jan 15, 2013 Robert rated it liked it
Shelves: history-world

Incredible memoir of a young boy who fought as a child warrior in the Sudanese civil war, this work is both an unforgettable story of survival against staggering odds and a window into the mind of a child as he experiences the horrors or war - the death of his mother, his separation from his family, his training as a warrior. The description of this brutal training by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army - how it transformed him into a hardened, revenge-seeking killer, un-feeling, emotionally d
May 03, 2012 Nukonu rated it really liked it
I am currently reading this book. War Child: A Child Soldier's Story by Emmanuel Jal is about Emmanuel and his experience being a child soldier and his life after it, as being a a rapper, and activist. The book talks about the controversial topic of child soldiering. Jal talks about events in his life that changed him emotionally and physically.

So far I am still in the beginning of the book, but I can say what I like about the so far is that the beginning of the book gives you background on his
Sep 26, 2012 Jeremiah rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 07, 2013 Nick rated it really liked it
Emmanuel Jal's "War Child" is a gateway into the mind of a child that had been required to face war and its brutal phycological effects. "War Child" is a truely inspiring story of a child that manages to survive against astonishingly low odds. Emmanuel describes the brutal form of teaching used to turn children into unfeeling, killing machines. He experinced alot in his short lifetime up until he was saved. Some were gruesome, some depressing and some were painful but Emmanuel does not stray fro ...more
Dec 07, 2011 Meredith rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a book. This Emmanuel Jal's story of growing up in Sudan and the incredible hardships he faced as a child of war. It's his story of becoming a child solider, the story of his family and a story that speaks for millions of people living in Sudan and the terrible crisis that war over oil has caused.

His story is similar to another child solider's book A Long Way Gone (which takes place in Sierra Leone) which was also an incredible book. It was interesting to read about the different ways
Nicole (Reading Books With Coffee)
This was interesting. I've heard of the Lost Boys, but other than hearing the name, I didn't know anything about them.

I liked seeing what things were like for him, and how his life was changed because of what he's been through. I can't even begin to imagine what things were like for him...betrayal, being forced to fight, and starvation don't seem to cover half of what being a child soldier entailed. It was inspiring to see him go from child soldier to being a successful singer.

I'm glad I read
Apr 22, 2010 Jaclyn added it
This is an honest account of growing up in Africa during the mid-80's. Sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes hopeful it shows the brutality of war on children.

My favorite quote: "Today poverty is what scares me-the poverty of my family,my people, and my country. I pray that one day we will not live on aid,because poverty is like a virus that torments you mentally and emotionally. It is a slow and painful death of hope, humiliating and degrading, a parasite that sucks life from everyone it touches.
McKale Bingham
Jan 27, 2016 McKale Bingham rated it it was ok
The quality and style of writing in this book are respectable, as well as the story line. So I'm thinking it's probably just my preference in the content of a book when I say I didn't really enjoy this. The extremity of the brutality and hatred in the middle section of this memoir really bothered me. I'm aware that it's meant to be an honest account of Jal's life, but I didn't enjoy it. I'd only reccomend this book to people who can handle it.
Jun 16, 2012 Hal rated it liked it
This autobiographical story is written by a boy who never had the chance to go to school on a consistent basis until he was around fifteen. The facts surrounding his life are horrifying and awful, and provide a glimpse into the causes and perpetuity of the use of children in war. His writing overuses some sentences such as "my heart pounded" and "my stomach twisted" to the extent that a huge proportion of his emotional responses seem to be marked by this bodily reaction.
Emmanuel Jal's writing s
Anita Dawson
Feb 22, 2015 Anita Dawson rated it it was amazing
To use the words child and soldier in the same sentence is deplorable. No child should ever have to have the memories that the author has. It takes a strong will to take all of the negative in your life and find a positive. This story is one of true inspiration and courage. There are so many children that are forced to follow this path, but are unable to find their way to an encouraged life. Kudos to the author for continuing to live the positive and not allow the past to affect his current life ...more
Dec 21, 2014 Lauren rated it it was amazing
I went to an Emmanuel Jal concert in college and was inspired then. When I saw his book in b&n I just had to grab it. I've been inspired all over again. The human will to survive in harrowing circumstances has always baffled me. Add to that the ability to forgive those who are responsible for such horrible atrocities... What a moving message.
Mar 10, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
So glad to be done with this heartbreaking memoir. Extremely difficult to read but also very important. I was a little frustrated by the last part of the book; I felt like Emmanuel Jal gave us lots and lots of (horrible) details about his childhood but kind of glossed over his evolution into an adult. On the other hand, how he can even form words after what he went through is amazing.
Jul 27, 2009 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This memoir of Emmanuel Jal tells that he was a 7 year old Sudanese Christian when war came to his village. With his mother and four siblings he was on the run for two years, his mother died, his father sent him into the army as a 9 year old. He wasn’t tall or strong enough to hold his AK47, often. He starved, killed, went without food and water often. And now he is an international rap star, singing about what he knows. Unlike Ishmael Beah, Jal never dealt in an organized and systematic way wit ...more
MarQuis Chappell
Apr 26, 2016 MarQuis Chappell rated it really liked it
In the beginning I wasn't exactly sure I would enjoy this book since I had read several narratives about former boy soldiers. Jal's story, however, is told with power and distinction, making this read breathtaking. I do highly recommend.
Mar 27, 2012 Abi rated it really liked it
I heard Eammanuel Jal speak at a conference just over a year ago. I bought the book then and then didn't read it. I picked it up about a week ago and finally read the book. This book is a very honest and open portrayal of Jal's life. There are happy and sad moments in the book. The book is easy to read and simply written like you would be taking with Jal. After hearing him speak I can imagine him telling the story. My heart breaks for what he's been through and saw as a child but rejoices in wha ...more
Kasey Ross
I thought this is definitely a good book. Emmauel Jal is able to give his readers the insight of what its like to live during a war, and lose ones family. He was able to overcome his childhood and become a renown gospel rapper.
May 28, 2014 Shaniyah rated it it was amazing
A true, unbelievable, story about a child growning up in war. In the book, Jal describes his childhood and having to see so much death of women and children of all ages. I honestly say this book is touching and overtly wonderful.
Amy Kitchell-Leighty
May 20, 2011 Amy Kitchell-Leighty rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Chuck Kitchell, Jim McGarrah
Shelves: nf-war-history
This begins with seven year old Jal Jok living in Sudan in the mid-eighties and during their civil war, a war thought to be about religion between the Muslims and Christians though the underlying culprit was oil and territory. He, like many others, is separated from his family and becomes a child soldier in the SPLA Red Army, later they become known as The Lost Boys. He comes in contact with philanthropist Emma McCune who helps Jal flee to Kenya and go to school. Through war, beatings, brainwash ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Socring Screw Ups 4 25 Nov 05, 2014 11:26AM  
English 11 1B/D: War Child 2 7 Dec 05, 2012 09:00AM  
Akins Hollis Engl...: SSR 1 1 Sep 09, 2011 07:46AM  
Akins Hollis Engl...: SSR 1 1 Aug 26, 2011 08:07AM  
  • Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival
  • The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur
  • The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
  • Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur
  • God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir
  • Where We Have Hope: A Memoir of Zimbabwe
  • They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers
  • They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan
  • Emma's War
  • First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army
  • Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-torn Village
  • Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda's Children
  • Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm
  • Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond
  • Do They Hear You When You Cry
  • Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
  • Notes from the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood
  • House of Stone: The True Story of a Family Divided in War-Torn Zimbabwe
Emmanuel Jal has no fixed record of when, exactly, he was born, but he is fairly sure that he was about seven years old when he was recruited as a child soldier in his native Sudan. He didn't need much persuading to join: three years previously, his father, a police officer, disappeared at the onset of the country's second civil war (raging from 1983 to, despite the 2005 peace agreement, this very ...more
More about Emmanuel Jal...

Share This Book

“I had thought about forgiveness more and more...I knew it wasn't a light that could be switched on in an instant-it grew day by day, week by week, month by month-but something was changing inside me now during the hours when I sat alone and tried to calm my feelings. A seed had been sown, and I sensed that, just as I'd once faced a choice about whether to use violence on the night when I stared at the gun, I know had another choice: to remain trapped in the bitterness of the past or to find peace in the present.” 5 likes
More quotes…