Saturday, February 26, 2011

Little Princes

by Conor Grennan
New York: William Morrow, 2010.

*NOTE: This review refers to the ARC I received through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. As per the rules, I receive a free book in return for a review, and whether it's positive or negative has no affect on my receiving books in the future.*

In 2004, Conor Grennan decided he was going to take a break from the workaday grind and travel the world. To make this sound a little less self-serving (and yes, perhaps impress women at bars), he chose to begin his travel stint with three months of volunteering at a Nepalese orphanage, Little Princes. He didn't realize that what started as a lark would be a transformative experience in his life, especially when he discovered that many of these children were not orphans at all, but had been sold to child traffickers in hopes of giving them a safe place to live during the Maoist revolution.

When I was a little kid, I used to imagine I could be one of those missionaries like Amy Carmichael who would go to another country and rescue kids from awful situations. So maybe it was natural that this title would stand out to me when I saw it as an Early Reviewer offering. I was really impressed with this book. I loved that Grennan is upfront about his foibles and his less-than-altruistic motives. So often I'll read books that make the altruistic worker look so great, the type I can't measure up to because I'm in a different situation and unable to do in such a concrete manner, but I never felt that way while reading this book. No, every time I picked it up I had a smile on my face. While the stories about child trafficking and the situations these kids had to go through were absolutely heartbreaking, Grennan always balanced these sobering stories with a funny anecdote about the kids' antics. I appreciated the upbeat and optimistic tone, the focus on the good instead of depressing me with the need and loss that still went hand in hand with the good moments, but never completely overshadows them. Enthusiastically recommended.

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