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Book Review: Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows: A Story about ACEs and Hope


Review of Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows by Jessica King

Childhood can be brutal.

Some of the authors I admire most have been able to reflect on difficult childhood trauma and create art, holding those experiences up to the light and processing them. In children’s literature, these personal, heartfelt #OwnVoices works tell a difficult story with truth and compassion. Books like this form a vital “mirror” for children in similar circumstances. I received an advance copy of Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows to review, and I am adding it to the list of books that can help children cope with difficulties in their lives.

This is “a story about ACES and Hope.” So what are ACEs?

ACEs stands for adverse childhood experiences. Although there can be slight variations depending on the list you look at, adverse childhood experiences include abuse, neglect, a family member who abuses substances, a family member who is incarcerated, a family member with mental illness, and parents’ divorce or separation. More recent additions to the list of ACEs include poverty, child labor, racism, gender discrimination, community violence, and homelessness (See What are ACEs from Joining Forces for Children, and also Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows, p. 32-36.) I have previously reviewed a book about a child with an incarcerated parent (Mama’s Nightingale) and a book involving parental separation (Across the Bay), but this book applies more broadly to any of the Adverse Childhood Experiences.

In this story, the emphasis is less on the trauma itself, and more on the ripple effects that has on a child’s ability to learn and manage emotions. The words describing the trauma are very simple. They say, “Sometimes his home is a hurricane.” (The illustrations paint a more specific picture, with bottles of alcohol, with Rohan’s parents yelling and breaking things, and later yelling at their children.)

Read the full review on Caribbean Children's Books


Images (1)
  • Rohan_Front Cover_Juleus Ghunta

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