We had such a wonderful time with our book group on Monday night! Everyone really loved this book. If you didn’t get the chance to join us, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the book. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, it definitely comes highly recommended from Vamos a Leer. We hope you’ll add it to your TBR list!
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.
Like Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino, Caminar offers a fictionalized account of the violent Guatemalan Civil War that lasted over thirty years. Both books tell their story through the eyes of a young protagonist, but Brown’s Caminar is a novel in verse. The style of this genre makes Caminar a perfect introduction to a subject that’s often not covered in young adult fiction or non-fiction. While the topic itself is certainly complex, the novel in verse format lends itself to struggling readers and ELLs. Each page is its own poem, so there aren’t long chapters to wade through or difficult dialogues that can be frustrating for readers to try and follow. With shorter text, teachers can spend more time focusing on meaning, symbolism and imagery in each poem. Because it is poetry, it would make for a great read aloud, teacher or student led, providing great oral language practice. I think novels in verse are a great opportunity for focused poetry study as well. As a novel, they’re longer than the typical poems we teach in the k-12 classroom. While many students can be intimidated by poetry, the novel in verse gives them time to settle in both to reading poetry and exploring the particular author’s style. Brown’s work offers so many examples of the creative things a writer can do with poetry just through arrangement, spacing and shape of the poems that it really lends itself to a poetry unit.