Cover image for Tree Girl
Tree Girl
Mikaelsen, Ben, 1952-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Rayo : HarperTempest, [2004]

Physical Description:
225 pages ; 19 cm
When, protected by the branches of one of the trees she loves to climb, Gabriela witnesses the destruction of her Mayan village and the murder of nearly all its inhabitants, she vows never to climb again until, after she and her traumatised sister find safety in a Mexican refugee camp, she realizes that only by climbing and facing their fears can she and her sister hope to have a future.
Reading Level:
880 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.7 6.0 78027.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.8 12 Quiz: 37261 Guided reading level: W.

Format :


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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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They call Gabriela Tree Girl.

Laj Ali Re Jayub in her native language of Quich#65533;. Gabi climbs trees to be within reach of the eagles and watch the sun rise into an empty sky. She is at home among the outstretched branches of the Guatemalan forests.

Then one day from the safety of a tree, Gabi witnesses the sights and sounds of an unspeakable massacre. She sees rape and murder -- the ravages of guerrilla warfare. She vows to be Tree Girl no more.

Earthbound, she joins the hordes of refugees struggling to reach the Mexican border. She has lost her whole family; her entire village has been wiped out. Yet she clings to the hope that she will be reunited with her youngest sister, Alicia. Over dangerous miles and months of hunger, thirst, and the threat of more violence from soldiers, Gabriela's search for Alicia and for a safe haven becomes a search for self. Having turned her back on her own identity, can she hope to claim a new life?

This novel is based on a true story told to the author one night by the real Tree Girl in a secure safe house in Guatemala.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-12. Every living human I had ever known was gone. Based on a true story, this disturbing novel of civil war in Guatemala tells of mass atrocity through the first-person narrative of Mayan teenager Gabriela Flores, who witnesses the Latino soldiers' torture, rape, and massacre of Indians, including her own family, before escaping to a refugee camp in Mexico. Without sentimentality or exploitation, the story brings readers up close as Gabriela finds the strength to face survivor guilt and stay alive to bear witness. The facts are never simplistic. Gabriela's world before the soldiers come is happy, but far from idyllic, and although she feels strongly about her heritage, she's not imprisoned by it. A historical note would have been helpful; there are no dates or specific officials' names. But the U.S. government is clearly indicted for arming and training Latino soldiers to fight the Communist guerrillas and drive the Indios from their land. The prose is clear, direct, and graphic, and many readers will want to find out more and talk about it with adults. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-Ben Mikaelsen's novel (Rayo, 2004) is based on a true, first person account of the Guatemalan genocide that occurred in the early 1980s. The story begins in a remote Guatemalan village where Gabriela is known as Tree Girl because she loves to climb trees to be closer to heaven. One day, high in the trees, she witnesses the horrors of guerilla warfare-brutal torture, rape, and mass murder. The descriptions of the soldiers' actions are graphic and disturbing. During the celebration of Gabi's Quinceanos, soldiers insult her family and abduct her older brother. Later she witnesses her teacher being beaten to death and the shooting of her classmates. Almost her entire village and family are murdered. On her way to a refugee camp in Mexico, she helplessly watches the heinous death of every person and animal in a village while clinging to a tree limb for two days. Gabi eventually arrives at a squalid refugee camp in Mexico where she reunites with her younger sister and eventually starts a school for refugee children. The somber voice of Amber Sealey is perfect for Gabi, and she smoothly integrates the Latino words of the Indio dialect into the flow of the story. An author's note explains that Gabi's real identity is secret and, after leaving the refugee camp, she returned to Guatemala and is living in a safe house. Throughout the book, and in the endnote, the U.S. government is clearly held responsible for training and arming the military that committed these violent acts. Teens will want to learn more about these historical events after listening to this heart-wrenching audiobook.-Patricia McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.