Author: Skila Brown
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: March 11th, 2014
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel In Verse
GoodReads Summary: Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck:Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
What I Think: Everyone on my mom's side of the family is from Guatemala but I have never been. I speak Spanish (enough) and we participate in many traditions from Guatemala. My parents visit often, they actually just came back this past Sunday from a trip. My grandmother, uncle cousins and other extended family still live there. So why haven't I been? Mostly because my mom doesn't feel that it's safe. She worries about something happening to us and so I haven't been. Whether this is truly a reason not to go, it definitely factors in. (Another reason is that their seasons are opposite of ours here near Chicago so when I suggest we go in the summer when school is out, my mom reminds me that it's their rainy season and just not a nice time to visit.)
My point in sharing my mom's concerns about our safety is that this book gives some insight into what people in Guatemala experienced during Guatemala's civil war which took place from 1960 to 1996 and how there are lasting effects of this war even to this day.
Skila Brown does an excellent job of bringing what the main character experiences to life. The imagery is wonderful, letting the reader experience what it might be like to be teetering between childhood and adulthood and thrust into a harrowing situation where he has to make decisions that impact his life and also those of others. It makes me sad but I'm so glad Skila wrote this book and shared this story.
Read Together: Grades 5 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 6 - 12
Read With: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, Sold by Patricia McCormick
Snatch of Text:
"I did not have to be big --- just strong
enough to make a wall
with my body,
keep everyone away
from the ball at my feet.
Then I could move,
tap it from one foot to the next,
go down the field and never lose
I could move the ball
safely, closer to the goal,
close enough to score,
but I was too afraid
it would be taken
before it reached the goal.
So I passed
instead. Even though Mateo's shot
didn't make it, I sighed with relief.
Because my pass did." (p. 6)Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Visualizing, Making Inferences, Making Connections
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Figurative Language, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you had to be brave and trust in someone or something even though you weren't sure if you truly did trust him or the situation.
Topics Covered: Family, Loyalty, Trust, Determination, Courage, Will
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