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Broken Memory

Written by Elisabeth Combres

  • 144 Pages
  • 9781554981618
  • Reading age from 13
  • JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Africa
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Social Situations / Emotions & Feelings
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Social Situations / Violence



Publication Date October 01, 2009

IRA Notable Books for a Global Society selection

Hiding behind an armchair, five-year-old Emma does not witness the murder of her mother, but she hears everything. And when the assassins finally leave, the young Tutsi girl somehow manages to stumble away from the scene, motivated only by the memory of her mother's last words: "You must not die, Emma!"

Eventually Emma is taken in by an old Hutu woman who risks her own life to hide the child. Emma stays with the old woman and a quiet bond forms between the two, but long after the war ends, the young girl is still haunted by nightmares.

When the country establishes courts to allow victims to face their tormenters in their villages, Emma is uneasy and afraid. But through her growing friendship with a young torture victim and the gentle encouragement of an old man charged with helping child survivors, Emma finds the courage to return to the house where her mother was killed and begin the journey to healing.

Selected for the IRA Notable Books for a Global Society 2010

Selected for the Resource Links' Year's Best 2010

Selected for the USBBY Outstanding International Books 2010

Selected for the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011


Elisabeth Combres
Élisabeth Combres has lived in Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble and Lima, Peru. She has worked as a reporter in France, Latin America and Africa. She began writing for young people after working as editor-in-chief for the magazine Mikado. She is the author of several children’s non-fiction titles, including Mondes Rebelles Junior, winner of the Prix Sorcières in 2002. In 2004 she collected the accounts of adolescent survivors, psychologists and humanitarian aid workers to use as the basis for this book. Broken Memory is her first novel. She lives in Grenoble, France.


"Combres' story offers readers intimate access to this chapter of history as well as considerable potential for discussion." Bulliten of the Center for Children's Books

"With simple, straightforward language, Combres gives her readers a glimpse into the inner landscape of trauma that a girl such as Emma would have suffered, and the ways by which she might emerge from it." Toronto Star

"...a short, easy-to-read novel about a Tutsi girl's survival during...shocking times." CM Magazine

"It is a compelling story that would be an excellent addition to any school or public library collection." VOYA

"This short, spare novel, translated from the French and based on the author's interviews with survivors, tells of the massacre and then the trials and aftermath, all from the viewpoint of a child...the child survivor's authentic experience makes this an excellent addition for the high-school Holocaust curriculum." Booklist

"...a gentle narrative...well-focused...[readers] will find this brief work approachable and evocative." Kirkus Reviews

"Gracefully composed." Resource Links

"Broken Memory shows what it takes to overcome trauma yet not remain defeated by it." WOW Review