Thirteen by Shannon Peel

Upper Middle Grade Novel

About the Author

From the frustration of parenting a thirteen year old boy and the desire to put
Canadians in the shoes of children suffering from war, came Thirteen. 

The story of Thirteen started when Shannon Peel was the emcee for a fundraising event. The speaker was a lost boy sharing his story in public for the first time. She'd never heard of the Lost Boys of South Sudan before, so she had no idea how effected she would be. 

Her heart broke as she listened to his tale. He was forcibly removed from his family at the age of 8 and forced to walk across South Sudan to Ethiopia with no one to care for him. As one of the oldest boys in the large group of hundred's of kids he was put in charge of caring for a smaller group of young boys, some of them as young as 4 years old. He had to help them to survive and bury them when they didn't. His story effected her for many reasons but mostly because her own son was 8 and she could imagine him going through the same thing. It hurt to picture him being forced by soldiers to walk and survive in a hostile world on his own. 

When she told people about the Lost Boys they were sympathetic but it was still - 'Other.' It was over there, someone else, different. They could not relate. She tried to write a novel that would help readers feel it as she did, but no matter what, it was still 'other' and that pulled the reader away from relating. So, she asked the question, 'how to get Canadians to feel the plight of children in war?' The answer: Bring the war to their world in a story they could relate to.

When Shannon Peel started writing Thirteen, her son was thirteen and was frustrated with the amount of freedom and independence he wanted. She barely saw the kid and when she did it was because he was grounded for one thing or another. 

The difficulty with letting her son grow up and the battle ground of an invasion seemed a perfect fit.