The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata
Our book club read this delightful book a number of months back; my recall of the story is therefore less detailed and more a matter of remembering the wonderful enjoyment of the story itself. The author engaged us in a true-to-life adventure story involving the struggle of some Indonesian village children to keep their humble but vital school surviving – amidst the threat of encroaching foreign mining companies who were seeking to bulldoze their building (with no consideration or compensation) in order to exploit the minerals below and around it. (Much of the rest of the territory had been similarly exploited, excepting the few areas such as the wealthy private school, various elite facilities and homes, etc.)
The teacher in this two-room school was a clever 15-year-old young woman who dedicated herself to her students’ education wholeheartedly, while also working a second job sewing in order to bring in enough money to live. What adventures these students had together! The reader becomes enchanted with the unique character strengths of each student as they encounter and deal with the harrowing challenges they face, both individually and as a little community of their own. Culminating in two particularly gripping and exciting subplots, this story was immensely satisfying and engaged the reader in becoming fondly acquainted with its characters, while also illustrating nuances of a beautiful Indonesian cultural backdrop. The author is a natural story teller, and his young characters are presented with such genuine respect that you forget they are children — except, paradoxically, you always know that they are! The ending was crescendo!
– April Goodman, Book club member