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Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland

The Bite of the Mango
y Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland

Publishing Information: Annick Press: Buffalo, N.Y., 2009
ISBN: 9781554511594 / 9781554511587 / 9781408805138 (PB)
: 216 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

Describes the life of Mariatue Kamara, focusing on her experiences as a 12-year-old girl during the civil war in Sierra Leone where she was raped, tortured, and had her hands cut off by juvenile rebel soldiersl and discusses her experiences after the war.

Book Talk:
The astounding story of one girl’s journey from war victim to UNICEF Special Representative.
As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry. But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands.Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown.

--from Annick Press

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Children and War
Kamara, Mariatu
Sierra Leone
War Victims

Awards & Reviews:
Canadian Children's Book Center Best Books for Kids & Teens, 2009
ForeWord Magazin
Book of the Year Silver Award, 2009
National Parenting Publications Award, 2009
Nautilus Book Award Silver Award, 2009
Next Generation Indie Book Award, 2009
Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction, 2009
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee, 2011
Saskatchewan Young Reader's Choice Snow Willow Award Nominee, 2010
Texas Tayshas Reading List, 2011
White Raven Collection of the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany, 2009
Young Adult LIbrary Services Association Best Books for Young Adults, 2009

Booklist, January 1, 2009
Horn Book, April 1, 2009
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2008 (Starred Review)
Resource Links, December 1, 2008
Publishers Weekly
, November 17, 2008, p. 59 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, November 1, 2008, p. 146 (Starred Review)
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, February 1, 2009

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Mariatu survived more physical and emotional pain than most of us can imagine. The emotional wounds must be as deep as the physical wounds. Is it possible for such deep emotional wounds to heal? How has Mariatu endured and overcome?

  2. Most of the soldiers in this war were children. They carried out unspeakable acts of terror. Should these child soldiers be held responsible? Are they victims too? How should their actions be addressed?

  3. What has happened in Sierra Leone since the publication of The Bite of the Mango? Have the people of Sierra Leone made a lasting peace? What has become of the child soldiers and the refugees of conflict in the region?

  4. How has the rest of the world responded to events in Sierra Leone? 

Related Websites:
Author's Website; Susan Mclelland -
“Angelina Jolie’s Story.” What’s Going On. United Nations. -
Kannan, Sesh. “Beyond the Fire: Teen Experiences of War.” ITVS Interactive -
BBC World Service. BBC World Service. ( Search: child soldiers ; children of conflict ; Sierra Leone
Helroy, Emily. “Global Feminist Profile: Mariatu Kamara.” Gender Across Borders: a Global Feminist Blog. 15 June 2009. -
The Mariatu Foundation. Web.
Ben-Ari, Nirit, and Ernest Harsch. “Sexual Violence, an Invisible War Crime: Sierra Leone Truth Commission Condemns Abuse, Discrimination.”  Africa Renewal -
Sierra Leone.  World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency -
United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone -

Young People in Conflict
The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk about the Civil War by Jim Murphy, 1999
Caught in the Crossfire: Growing Up in a War Zone by Maria Ousseimi, 1995
Children in War by Alan and Susan Raymond, 2000
Children of the A-Bomb: the Testament of the Boys and Girls of Hiroshima
, Translated by Jean Dan and Ruth Sieben-Morgan; illus. by Mr. and Mrs. Minoru Kuroki, 1959
Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis, 2009
Cruel World: the Children of Europe in the Nazi Web by Lynn H. Nicholas, 2005.
The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson, 2009
I Am Fifteen and I Don’t Want to Die
by Christine Arnothy, 1956
Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza with            Steve Erwin, 2006
The Long Walk: the True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz, 2006
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, 2007
My Childhood Under Fire : A Sarajevo Diary by Nadja Halilbegovich, 2006
No Pretty Pictures: a Child of War by Anita Lobel, 1998
Out of War : True Stories from the Frontlines of the Children’s Movement for Peace in    
by Sara Cameron in conjunction with UNICEF, 2001 (2004 RITBA Nominee)
Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You by Hanna Jansen, 2006
Sky: a True Story of Courage During World War II
by Hanneke Ippisch, 1996
Stolen Voices: Young People’s War Diaries, from World War I to Iraq, edited with          commentaries by Zlata Filopovic and Melanie Challenger, 2006
Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat, 2007
Thura’s Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq by Thura Al-Windawi, 2004
When Elephants Fight: The Lives of Children in Conflict in Afghaistan, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda by Eric Walters, 2008
Young People from Bosnia Talk about War by Harvey Fireside and Vrtna J. Fireside, 1996
Zlata’s Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo by Zlata Filopovic, 1994

True Stories of Survival
Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston, 2004
Island of the Lost : Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
by Joan Druett, 2007
Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, 2002

Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone by Judy L. Hasday. 2008
Sierra Leone by Suzanne LeVert. 2007
Sierra Leone by Katrina Manson. 2009

About the Authors:
As told to her by Mariatu, journalist Susan McClelland has written the heartbreaking true story of the brutal attack, its aftermath and Mariatu’s eventual arrival in Toronto where she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.
Susan McClelland is an award-winning journalist and two-time recipient (2005, 2008) of the prestigious Amnesty International Canada Media Award for excellence in human rights reporting. She also lives in Toronto.

Today, Mariatu is a college student in Toronto. She was named a UNICEF Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, which involves speaking to groups across North America about her experiences. Prior to her UNICEF engagement, Mariatu spoke publicly for the nonprofit group Free the Children.  She has also traveled extensively speaking to high school students and organizations about her physical and emotional journey from a child victim of war in Sierra Leone to a successful author, public speaker and student in Canada. She was recently honored in New York City with a Voices of Courage award given by the Women’s Refugee Commission.

Her professional goals for the future include working for the United Nations, raising awareness of the impact of war on children, and running her own foundation to raise money for a home, and eventually many homes, for abused women and children in Sierra Leone. She is also planning on reuniting several members of Aberdeen’s theater troupe, which she credits with her personal healing. She would like to make this an ongoing project so that she can share with youth the peacekeeping skills that she is learning through her own work with UNICEF and others.

In her spare time, Mariatu likes to listen to music, cook, shop, talk on the phone, watch movies, and go to parties. Most of the time she likes to stay home with family and be with her close friends. She is torn between her love of Sierra Leone and Toronto. She wishes she could live in both places at the same time.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair