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Product Description

This National Book Award nominee from two-time finalist Patricia McCormick is the unforgettable story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who defied the odds to survive the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge.

Based on the true story of Cambodian advocate Arn Chorn-Pond, and authentically told from his point of view as a young boy, this is an achingly raw and powerful historical novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace. It includes an author''s note and acknowledgments from Arn Chorn-Pond himself.

When soldiers arrive in his hometown, Arn is just a normal little boy. 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 dying before his eyes. 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.

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, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Review

“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.” -- Kirkus Reviews

Praise for PURPLE HEART: “Gripping details of existence in a war zone bring this to life.” -- ALA Booklist

From the Back Cover

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 former journalist and a two-time National Book Award finalist whose books include Cut, Sold, Never Fall Down, The Plot to Kill Hitler, Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero, and the young readers edition of I Am Malala. Patricia lives in New York. You can visit her online at www.pattymccormick.com.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
435 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Tan Huynh
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Tender, gripping story of survival
Reviewed in the United States on April 23, 2021
This is the second book that I read by PM. Again, she earns a standing ovation for this book! I really enjoyed this job because of how it transported me to the killing fields of Cambodia. Patricia wrote in a way that made me feel like I was next to Arn. I saw... See more
This is the second book that I read by PM. Again, she earns a standing ovation for this book!

I really enjoyed this job because of how it transported me to the killing fields of Cambodia. Patricia wrote in a way that made me feel like I was next to Arn. I saw every bullet, every ax coming down on the head, every stolen grain of rice, every act of bravery to just live another day.

As a social studies and language specialists, this would be a great book to teach:
- war
- genocide
- refugees

I can see my students who hate reading devouring this book!
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gracecat
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An Important Read
Reviewed in the United States on March 1, 2016
This was a gripping book about a brutal time in Cambodia... the 70''s, the Khemer Rouge and the Killing Fields. It is told from the perspective of a young Cambodian boy, who soon loses his innocence, his security and his family. It totally captures the horror of the time and... See more
This was a gripping book about a brutal time in Cambodia... the 70''s, the Khemer Rouge and the Killing Fields. It is told from the perspective of a young Cambodian boy, who soon loses his innocence, his security and his family. It totally captures the horror of the time and the effect it had.

The book is listed as a young adult book. I wondered at this because of the horror of the subject matter. But then, we should be teaching our teens about the horrors of our times with the hopes that they don''t repeat themselves. We can hope, can''t we?

The book is based on the actual experience of this young Cambodian man. The inspiring part is that ...yes, he survived, and has dedicated his life to both telling his story and involving himself in saving causes for Cambodia and humanity
6 people found this helpful
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Carol B
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Never fall, never give up
Reviewed in the United States on March 24, 2020
Riveting language that gives intimate detail without giving too much graphic information. McCormick is a master of creating word pictures that follow us around for days. I Had my 8-10th graders read this, if they chose (I call it a book date) and those who did (22 of them)... See more
Riveting language that gives intimate detail without giving too much graphic information. McCormick is a master of creating word pictures that follow us around for days. I Had my 8-10th graders read this, if they chose (I call it a book date) and those who did (22 of them) were blown away by this book. Most finished reading well ahead of deadline because the story captured them. This book led to fantastic discussions about humanity! Love.this.book!
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Sarah H.
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
"Broken" English is powerful
Reviewed in the United States on December 26, 2012
Many who work in the education field will be familiar with the issues of ethnicity and class as they relate to teaching English writing. In this book, the author writes that every time she tried to impose the rules of grammar and syntax on Chorn''s story, his voice was lost.... See more
Many who work in the education field will be familiar with the issues of ethnicity and class as they relate to teaching English writing. In this book, the author writes that every time she tried to impose the rules of grammar and syntax on Chorn''s story, his voice was lost. The book is published in "broken" English. Only people who spend a lot of time talking with people of "limited" English will know the unique descriptive and emotive power of these accents, word choices, and the simple "less is more" aspect of English as a second or third language. As an Asian-American, it was wonderful to read a book written in the voices of my first generation family. It is a voice we don''t hear enough. This book will show kids that learning to read and write is about communicating things that are important, and ebonics, accents, etc. do not need to hold them back, but, in the end, will make their writing and their stories more powerful.

This is an empowering book for anyone of immigrant descent, highly recommended for English teachers who work with diverse student bodies and especially for those whose students may not be exposed to such diversity. "A people without history is like a tree without roots." Asian-American kids need to know their history, and at the end of the day, the American bombs in Cambodia make this everyone''s history. It must be respected and understood. And in an era of post-9/11 anti-immigrant prejudice, it doesn''t hurt for people to have a little insight into why people may come to this country.
5 people found this helpful
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KC
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Sobering Tale of Survival
Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2012
As was true with her National Book Award finalist, SOLD, Patricia McCormick uses her fiction writing skills and her journalistic writing ability to share a child victim''s harrowing tale. In this case it is Arn Chorn-Pond, survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.... See more
As was true with her National Book Award finalist, SOLD, Patricia McCormick uses her fiction writing skills and her journalistic writing ability to share a child victim''s harrowing tale. In this case it is Arn Chorn-Pond, survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. NEVER FALL DOWN, named for one of the first things the captured boy learned to survive, travels the full arc of his experience, from the last days of normalcy before the Khmer Rouge takeover through the years of captivity, forced labor, and eventual conscription as a Khmer Rouge "soldier" when the Vietnamese invaded.

And as was the case with Sold, this is a young adult book with some adult themes, in this case, violence, death, murder, and other atrocities. At times the descriptions get quite graphic. Adding to the effect is McCormick''s decision to tell it as Arn himself would after he has learned but not mastered all the nuances of English. The contrast of this young, naive voice in broken English and the brutality it witnesses is stark, adding to the effect. Example:

"We walk three day. One long line of kid, all in black, one black snake with five hundred eye. Very tire, my leg heavy like boulder, my mind think only of the next step, then one more step, just walking, no thinking, no caring. Some kid die on the way. They die walking. Some kid cry for their parent or say they tire, they hungry. They get shot or maybe stab with the bayonet. Now we don''t even look. We only walk."

In its way, Don''t Fall Down reminded me of Elie Wiesel''s Night, where we start with a healthy, happy boy, and end with a shadow, physically and mentally. It would make a perfect companion read, in fact. It is short, easy to read, and wise in its straightforward style of narration. McCormick lets the horror speak for itself. And, as was the case with the young Wiesel in 1943 Hungary, Arn faces choiceless choices in his bid to survive, to someday reunite with his family. He uses considerable guile around adults and learns how to make himself valuable through his musical ability. Still, Death is at his elbow most every page of the book, and the motives of various Khmer Rouge soldiers are always suspect, lending the book a sustained sense of horror and suspense.

As you might expect, happy endings are hard to come by for people who go through such trauma. Arn is no exception. Author McCormick spent countless hours interviewing not only Chorn-Pond but surviving family members, his American adoptive family members, and even former members of the Khmer Rouge he interacted with. Many of these people now live in a northern enclave of Cambodia, and McCormick and Chorn-Pond flew together to meet the most important one for what must have been a memorable reunion and interview to make this book as accurate as possible.

"I asked Arn difficult, probing questions about his actions," McCormick writes in the Author''s Note, " -- the heroic and the horrific. I verified, as much as possible, the truth of his story. Then I wrote his story as a novel. Like all survivors, Arn can recall certain experiences in chilling detail; others he can tell only in vague generalities... So I added to his recollections with my own research -- and my own imagination -- to fill in the missing pieces. The truth, I believe, is right there between the lines."

It''s a sobering truth, too -- one that once again reminds us there are no depths to which man is incapable of sinking.
3 people found this helpful
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Nell Daley
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Absollutely a must read!
Reviewed in the United States on February 21, 2014
This is the story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who lived in Cambodia. When he was 11, the Khmer Rouge came to power and thus began the Kiling Fields. Nearly two million people died under the Khmer Rouge, one quarter of the population. It is the worst genocide ever inflicted by a... See more
This is the story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who lived in Cambodia. When he was 11, the Khmer Rouge came to power and thus began the Kiling Fields. Nearly two million people died under the Khmer Rouge, one quarter of the population. It is the worst genocide ever inflicted by a country on its own people. Patricia McCormick, the author, tells this story in Arn''s own words, and it makes the story all the more powerful. She says she verified, as much as possible, the truth of his story. She added to his recollections with research and sometimes her own imagination, to fill in the missing pieces, and says she believes the truth is right there between the lines. Even if some parts are not wholly true, the truth of the horrific things that happened in Cambodia and its people under the Khmer Rouge are true, and probably most of this story happened as remembered by Arn and related to her. Be sure to read the comments at the end of the book by Patricia McCormick, Arn Chorn-Pond, and others. One of the most profound novels I have ever read, and part of that is the way the story is written in his speech. It makes it all the more powerful.
5 people found this helpful
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Ikram
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Incredible story! So very well written!
Reviewed in the United States on May 21, 2012
I went to college with Arn and although I knew he had a rough life, I had no idea it was this heart wrenching! Back in college, he was always the life of any event he was in and made everyone feel good. I can see now where he got that drive from. I have a few more Cambodian... See more
I went to college with Arn and although I knew he had a rough life, I had no idea it was this heart wrenching! Back in college, he was always the life of any event he was in and made everyone feel good. I can see now where he got that drive from. I have a few more Cambodian friends and they all said they have gone through the same horrific experience. I cannot believe that humans can do this kind of horrible things to other humans and what makes this even more terrible is that the Khmer did this to their own people! But the books gives off a huge dose of hope as well. Seen through the eyes of Arn, anyone who ever thought they had/have a rough childhood because they didn''t get the latest video game or the latest whatever it is a kid wants these days, should read this book. I am certainly going to offer this up to my nieces and nephews!
16 people found this helpful
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Irish Bill
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The "spark" within us
Reviewed in the United States on March 25, 2013
As a senior citizen who spent most of my years in education, I have always been amazed at the resiliency of young people. Although not facing obstacles such as Arn Chorn-Pond faced, I have seen young folks face extreme poverty, dysfunctional family life, even... See more
As a senior citizen who spent most of my years in education, I have always been amazed at the resiliency of young people. Although not facing obstacles such as Arn Chorn-Pond faced, I have seen young folks face extreme poverty, dysfunctional family life, even life-threatening diseases and yet, through it all, keep moving forward with a spirit you wish you could ''catch in a bottle and save''. I think these young people have been able to find a certain "spark" within themselves. I believe that spark is made up of three essential parts: one part faith that there is something greater ahead, one part hope that despite all the obstacles they can reach it, and one part courage that allows them to keep on keeping on when it would be so easy to quit. One of the great things about a book such as this is that it encourages each of us to look deep within ourselves for that same "spark" to get us through our daily mundane problems. Patricia McCormick does a wonderful job of keeping that "spark" evident throughout the pages of this novel which are filled with so many horrific examples of man''s inhumanity to man. In the spirit of Eli Wiesel and others, Arn Chorn-Pond is not only a voice of conscience for all of us but a real, genuine hero. You will not be disappointed in the quality of this book''s writing or its message and, if you are really lucky, you will also become more aware that the same "spark" lies within each of us.
2 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

The gadget man
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Simply fantastic
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 29, 2017
I got this book at 5pm and was finished in just under three hours, I simply could not put this book down,from start to finish it is simply fantastic 10 out of 10 all the way. This book takes you on fantastic journey. Top marks all the way thank you Patricia McCormick for...See more
I got this book at 5pm and was finished in just under three hours, I simply could not put this book down,from start to finish it is simply fantastic 10 out of 10 all the way. This book takes you on fantastic journey. Top marks all the way thank you Patricia McCormick for bringing this sad and interesting story to light. One of the best books I have had the pleasure to read in a long time. I have now given the book to my wife to read and like me she is reading none stop.
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Tricia
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A must read for everyone
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 27, 2015
This book had me intrigued from start to finish and I was glad to read at the end where the author got the information from. It was harrowing in places and unbelievable and then to find that the majority of the facts were true was very thought provoking.
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Ms. K. D. KC
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very Moving
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 7, 2014
This book was amazing. I visited Cambodia this summer and despite seeing and learning about the country''s recent history, nothing hit me the way the book did especially the epilogue. Literally gave me goosebumps. I would reconmend everyone read this book even if you have no...See more
This book was amazing. I visited Cambodia this summer and despite seeing and learning about the country''s recent history, nothing hit me the way the book did especially the epilogue. Literally gave me goosebumps. I would reconmend everyone read this book even if you have no interest in the Khmer Rouge Genocide just because it is so emotional and eye opening.
One person found this helpful
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Mark Catanach
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Four Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 1, 2017
Book delivered nice and new.
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Deb
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Four Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 5, 2016
Moving story
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