Caminar

Caminar
By Skila Brown

Published by Candlewick Press

Also available as an audio book.

This is a welcome way to increase the diversity of any collection while providing a glimpse into a period of history unknown to most American kids.”Booklist, Sarah Bean Thompson

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Description
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.

Reviews & Accolades
Caminar contributes poetry that elevates the genre. … Readers will encounter a range of imagery, repetition, rhythms, and visual effects that bring to life the psychological experience of Carlos, a young boy caught in the violent clash between the government’s army and the people’s rebels. … This is a much-needed addition to Latin American-themed middle grade fiction.” –School Library Journal

“Writing in verse, Brown debuts with a tense coming-of-age story set amid the Guatemalan Civil War. Opening in 1981, it follows a timid boy named Carlos as he wrestles with what it means to be a man after his fictional village, Chopán, is visited by government soldiers and, later, by a band of guerillas. Brown uses concrete poetry to excellent effect, skillfully playing with spacing, structure, and repetition. One poem is a jumble of quotations as villagers discuss the passing rebels (“ ‘We must protect our village.’ ‘They have guns.’ ‘Dios mío.’ ”). In another, Carlos argues with himself as he trudges through the forest after disaster strikes Chopán, his thoughts (“ ‘Mama told me to run’ ‘Only boys run’ ”) appearing on both sides of a column of text that repeats “I walked.” Brown offers some historical context in an opening note and a Q&A (a glossary of Spanish words is also included), but the ambiguities and uncertainties within the story itself help align readers with Carlos and his fellow villagers, caught in a conflict they don’t understand.”–Publisher’s Weekly

“Exquisitely crafted poems are the basis of an unusually fine verse novel set in 1981, in the middle of the Guatemalan Civil War. … The poems, all written from Carlos’s point of view, are emotional, visceral, and lyrical. Layered and varied, some are shape poems; some can be read in more than one way, as if written from two perspectives; and all are accessible to young readers. … All combine to give us a chillingly memorable portrait of one child surviving violence and loss in a time of war.” –The Horn Book,  (starred review)

“The Guatemalan Civil War is powerfully fictionalized through the eyes of a young boy on the verge of becoming a man in this debut novel…Written in verse, the book takes advantage of a variety of formats and styles. This is a welcome way to increase the diversity of any collection while providing a glimpse into a period of history unknown to most American kids. A glossary of Spanish words is included.”  –Booklist

Groups Represented
Guatemalan

Themes
Civil War

Setting
Guatemala

Engagement Projects
There is a glossary of included Spanish words.
Link to an Educator’s Guide can be found here.