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Mikaelsen, Ben

New York : HarperCollins, 2002
IL 5-8, RL 4.1
ISBN 0060012285

(3 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Santiago's father once told him that changes do not always ask our permission.  Little did Santiago know how true that would become in his life.  When the soldiers came to his town in Guatemala that night, men, women and children were killed and the village was burned.  Twelve-year-old Santiago and his four-year-old sister Angelina escape the soldiers terror.  Now, there is only one hope for the two children.  They must travel to their Uncle's home.  It is not an easy journey and it may take several days.  When they reach their Uncle's home, they will begin the next part of their journey.  They have made a promise to escape to the United States and tell the people about the butchery of the Guatemalan soldiers.  But is it even possible?  They have only a small sea kayak and a big ocean between them and freedom.  There are also soldiers, pirates and sharks.  Not to mention storms.  How can two small children with no sailing experience ever hope to find freedom?  Join Santiago and Angelina as they journey towards the unknown.

Booktalk #2

Santiago is one of the indigenos, the “first people”.  His family and fellow villagers are descendants of the Mayan people.  He lives in Dos Vias, Guatemala.  But life has changed for the “first people” in 1981, soldiers have come and they are murdering anyone in their way.  Until one day, it is Santiago’s family that is in the way.  Then one night the sky is filled with gunfire, a red midnight, and all of Santiago’s family is murdered except his four-year-old sister, Angelina.  His uncle’s dying words are to take his boat and sail to the United States to be free.  But Santiago has only pretended to be a sailor.  Can he keep his sister and himself alive on the treacherous trip? (Jill Sessions,

Booktalk #3

I remember the night my family died as if it were yesterday.  My mother woke me up in the middle of the night. She told me to take my four-year-old sister and run for our lives.  The soldieries were killing everyone in our mountainous village.  Where could we run?  The soldiers had to kill everyone so the world would not find out what they were doing.  I finally decided to go down to my dead uncles house on the coast.  He had a boat there.  Angelina and I had a terrible time sneaking away.  We had to do things that we would never have normally done.  When we got to my uncle’s house, we were lucky that one of his kind neighbors helped us.  They told us that we must take Uncle Ramos’s boat and try to make it to the United States.  I wondered was it possible for an inexperienced twelve-year-old and a four-year-old to sail from Guatemala to the United States in a small rickety boat?  I knew we had no choice.  If we stayed, we would be killed.  We might as well try to live.

Prepared by: Barbara Satkowski for South Carolina Junior Book Award 2005

SUBJECTS:     Guatemala -- Fiction.
                        Kayaks and kayaking -- Fiction.
                        Survival -- Fiction.
                        Emigration and immigration -- Fiction.


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