While many other families in Carlos' rural Guatemalan village are large and boisterous, he and his mother live alone. He's not yet a man. He's afraid of the dark. He listens to his mother.
After the rebels pass, his mother knows that the soldiers will be back, and she tells him,
Unsure of who is the enemy, the rebels or the army's soldiers, Carlos heads for the place where he is most comfortable, the trees. In the cover of the trees, he makes his way up the mountain toward his grandmother's village. When he meets up with guerilla fighters, he must make the biggest choice of his life.
A debut novel in verse, Caminar is a rural boy's perception of a sad time in 1981, when the fighting between Guatemalan rebels and soldiers (which, according to the author's note claimed 200,000 lives over the course of time), disrupted his village of Chopán forever. In Carlos' fictional Chopán, where the people still speak indigenous languages, there is disagreement. Are the guerilla fighters Communists, rebels, freedom fighters? Are the Guatemalan soldiers oppressors, liberators, defenders? To non-Spanish-speaking, non land-owning villagers, it matters not. In the end, they are both the enemy.
Featuring different types of poetry, including one styled after Marilyn Singer's unique "reverso" poems, Skila Brown often employs "concrete" effects, using spacing to punctuate a feeling or mood. Poetry is an excellent vehicle for delivering a complex and nuanced book on a disturbing topic to a young audience. Brown deliberately leaves space for reflection between the leaves.
A Note from the Author, Glossary, Q&A with the Author, and Acknowledgments help to round out the historical aspects of the story. Best for middle-grade readers.
Review copy supplied by the publisher. Due on shelves in March, 2014.