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.
About the Author
Patricia McCormick is a two-time National Book Award finalist and former journalist who has won much acclaim for her compassionate approach to hard-hitting subjects. Her book Purple Heart was a Publishers Weekly Best Book, and her book Sold, also a National Book Award Finalist, is soon to be a feature film. Other seminal books she has written are Cut and My Brother's Keeper. Patty lives in New York with her family.
“While never shying from the ugliness and brutality of this genocide, McCormick crafts a powerful tribute to the human spirit.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Powerfully, hauntingly unforgettable.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“This compelling chronicle deserves to be widely read, discussed, and reflected upon by a generation of young people who may be largely unaware of this dark chapter in world history.”
-Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“A gripping account of the inner turmoil of a child soldier.”
-New York Times Book Review
“McCormick’s novel is one that needs to be read.”
-The Horn Book
“One of the most inspiring and powerful books I’ve ever read. Never Fall Down can teach us all about finding the courage to speak our truth and change the world.”
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“Following the pattern of excellence McCormick began with her novel SOLD, she has created another amazing story through skilled and patient research.”
-Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
“Arn Chorn Pond is a fast-talking dynamo with endless energy and zest for life. In Never Fall Down, Patricia McCormick captures brilliantly the man, his heart, and his passion to make Cambodia and our world a better place for all. Arn’s against-all-odds survival story and McCormick’s crisp prose gripped me from the first page to the very end.”
-Loung Ung, bestelling author of First They Killed My Father, and Lucky Child
Praise for PURPLE HEART: “In this suspenseful psychological thriller…McCormick raises moral questions without judgment and will have readers examining not only this conflict but the nature of heroism and war.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for PURPLE HEART: “McCormick builds the plot subtly and carefully with rich, spare prose.”
Praise for PURPLE HEART: “Gripping details of existence in a war zone bring this to life.”