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Never Fall Down
Cover of Never Fall Down
Never Fall Down
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When soldiers arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock 'n' roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever. Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes. He sees prisoners marched to a nearby mango grove, never to return. And he learns to be invisible to the sadistic Khmer Rouge, who can give or take away life on a whim.

One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn's never played a note in his life, but he volunteers. In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand—and steal food to keep the other kids alive. This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated from the Khmer Rouge, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier. He lives by the simple credo: Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down.

Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, this is an achingly raw and powerful novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace, from National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick.

When soldiers arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock 'n' roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever. Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes. He sees prisoners marched to a nearby mango grove, never to return. And he learns to be invisible to the sadistic Khmer Rouge, who can give or take away life on a whim.

One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn's never played a note in his life, but he volunteers. In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand—and steal food to keep the other kids alive. This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated from the Khmer Rouge, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier. He lives by the simple credo: Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down.

Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, this is an achingly raw and powerful novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace, from National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick.

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  • Available:
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Levels-
  • ATOS:
    4.5
  • Lexile:
    710
  • Interest Level:
    UG
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Patricia McCormick is a former journalist and a two-time National Book Award finalist whose books include Cut, Sold, Never Fall Down, The Plot to Kill Hitler, and the young readers edition of I Am Malala. Patricia lives in New York. You can visit her online at www.pattymccormick.com.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 26, 2012
    McCormick (Purple Heart) again tackles a horrifying subject with grace while unsentimentally portraying the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia’s killing fields. Not unlike Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water, this novel is based on a real person, Arn Chorn Pond, who was 11 years old at the time of the country’s Communist revolution. Arn’s narration balances a palpable and constant sense of fear, starvation, and humiliation with his will to survive. Doing so involves great moral compromises, bravery, and a capacity for love and friendship despite the nightmarish circumstances. McCormick divides the narrative into five periods: life before the revolution; in the camps, where Arn learns to play the music (which is used to disguise the noise of regular executions); his induction into the Khmer Rouge; his time in a refugee camp; and, finally, his transition to America. On how to survive, Arn observes, “You show you care, you die. You show fear, you die. You show nothing, maybe you live.” While never shying from the ugliness and brutality of this genocide, McCormick crafts a powerful tribute to the human spirit. Ages 14–up.

  • AudioFile Magazine Few books have been written about the horrors of the killing fields of 1970s Cambodia. Patricia McCormick has changed that with her moving YA novel, based on the real-life story of Arn Chorn-Pond. Narrator Ramon de Ocampo splendidly captures Arn's broken English and mischievous personality, along with his dawning realization that he and his fellow prisoners are NOT going to be returning home in three days' time. As atrocities mount, de Ocampo vividly portrays the characters' reactions. Despite the pain of reliving his history, Arn projects hope and optimism. He believes the world is better for learning what countrymen are able to inflict on each other, a lesson that, alas, remains relevant. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine
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Never Fall Down
Never Fall Down
Patricia McCormick
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