A survivor's mantra: Never Fall Down

NEVER FALL DOWN<br><b>Patricia McCormick</b><br><i>Corgi</i>
NEVER FALL DOWN<br><b>Patricia McCormick</b><br><i>Corgi</i>
The title of this book, Never Fall Down, was 11-year-old Cambodian boy Arn's mantra, used to remind himself of a terrible truth: if you showed weakness to the Khmer Rouge through exhaustion from overwork or starvation, they killed you where you lay.

Pat McCormick has brought to awful life what one boy and those around him suffered 40 years ago for the sake of an ideology.

The novel is based on Arn's experiences, as if told by the boy himself. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia to oust the Khmer Rouge, Arn became a child soldier for the people he hated the most, the Khmer Rouge. His unit was known as the Little Fish, and he came to realise they were bait to lure the enemy.

Sickened by war, all he had endured before it and what he had to do to survive, he escaped to Thailand in the confusion of the imminent defeat of the Khmer Rouge.

Although the subject matter is shocking and the depiction of it graphic, there is a thread of hope for better things running through the tale.

Arn is now a well-known campaigner for Cambodian culture and children caught up in war.

There is a warning of the nature of its content on the back cover of the book, but I feel it should be required reading in senior classes, if only to reinforce the sheer folly of following a crazy scheme to the ruin of a whole country.

- Rene Nol is a Dunedin reader

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