When my son was eight years old I volunteered to emcee an event to raise awareness and money for AIDs hospices in the third world. A worthy cause that leaves thousands of children orphaned. I had heard about a man in our city who was a refugee from Sudan and would be willing to tell his story at our dinner. I am embarrassed to say I knew nothing about the plight of South Sudan at the time. I thought maybe he had come from Darfur, something was happening there, although I was unsure what.
When I met this incredible man I was shocked by how big and how black he was. He towered over me and I’d never seen anyone that dark up close before. He was a gentle soul and extremely polite, respectful and kind. When I introduced him I was not prepared for his story, no one in the room was.
You see, he was a lost boy of South Sudan, something I’d never heard of. At the age of eight, the same age my son was at the time, he was forced by the SPLA to leave his family and walk across the country with thousands of other boys into Ethiopia. The reason the soldiers were taking these boys to the safety of another country was two fold. First, the government was bombing schools, hospitals and purposefully trying to kill the children of South Sudan. Second, Kony was stealing boys to train as child soldiers.
The soldiers were not there to pamper these children or care for them. They were put into groups and forced to care for themselves. At eight years old, this man was the oldest of his group, he had to help the younger boys, find food, bury the dead, fight off predators, hide from bombers, eat mud to fill empty bellies, and survive the harsh conditions of a war torn country.
To this day I do not know how I found the strength to get up thank him for his story and introduce the next speaker without breaking down. I excused myself after and had a good cry in the washroom as I imagined my son in his place. The memory still brings tears to my eyes.
I tried to write a story that would help North American children understand the horrors of war, but the story was always other. Someone else’s story, someone else’s problem, easily dismissed.
When my son turned thirteen he became a different child. Any mother of a newly turned teenager will know the difficulties I faced. Never wanting to come home, a fight for freedom and independence were a daily occurrence. I was struggling with letting go of my child as he became teenager at the same time as trying to figure out how to write the novel I wanted to write.
During a walk it finally came to me. Bring the issue of war to North America, make it theirs. Young teens will identify with a group of kids just like them and when their lives are changed by war they will be able to feel empathy for the situation. Instead of trying to write a story that made kids understand that children in war torn countries were just like them, make their world a war torn country.
That is how the story for Thirteen came about. It is about a thirteen year old boy in a battle for independence and freedom with his mother when foreign soldiers invade his hometown. Jack is now faced with a world without power, technology, escape, freedom, or communication. His father lives in another town and armed checkpoints stand in his way of finding out if he is safe or one of the people who are disappearing.
The story is a mother son story fraught with issues pertaining to growing up, divorce, and personal conflict. Jack is growing up, figuring out who he is and that is not who his mother thinks he should be. His father is absent and he is headed down a wrong path but that path is not who Jack really is. The invasion and the dangerous world he finds himself in tests Jack and forces him to be the man he really is.
Thirteen is the first in a series about Jack and his friends as they try to survive, gather intelligence, and fight back. They will face dangers they never thought they would and they will have to make some tough choices no parent wants their child to make.
If you like WWII stories about life in Nazi occupied Europe then this series will interest you. To download your free ebook (available in several formats) click on:
More details about Shannon and her books can be found at the following links (TSRA):
6 thoughts on “Guest Author Shannon Peel”
I read the portion of Thirteen uploaded on Authonomy and loved it.
Thank you so much Chris for giving me the opportunity to share why I wrote the book and I hope one day it will find representation and the series will find a place in the bookshelves of North American children.
Wow. Thirteen sounds interesting and that was an amazing story.
What an inspiring story about the lost boys of Sudan. I did not know about them either. To use this as your catalyst to write a story of your own is commendable and inspiring to say the least. I hope this story helps young boys everywhere. Best of luck with your book, Shannon. It is a pleasure to meet you. Let’s connect.
Wonderful job on this blog, Chris. You are a wonder, my ape friend, how you find such extraordinary people to put on your blog.
They are all around us Janice, all it takes is looking with eyes and mind open 🙂
This is a very nicely written article relating the sad plight of this third world country. I have also read that these poor young boys are often molested by the soldiers too. The book Thirteen sounds really interesting, so I’ll look out for it.