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-In her remote Guatemalan village, 14-year-old Gabriela is known as Tree Girl for her habit of fleeing to the forest and climbing high to escape the world. When guerrilla warfare comes to her area, her life is changed forever. Soldiers eventually discover the small school she attends, beat and murder her teacher, and shoot the other students. Tree climbing saves Gabi from that massacre, and she is away from home when her village is destroyed and nearly all of her family members are murdered. In the course of her flight north to a Mexican refugee camp, she again hides in a tree while soldiers rape and murder the inhabitants of another village. After arriving at the camp, Gabi cares for two elderly women and her one surviving sister and eventually founds a school. Her concern for others helps her recover from the trauma of her experiences. This is a graphic portrayal of the worst of civil war, based on one refugee's story. The author's anger that the U.S. government trained and supported soldiers who committed such atrocities is clear. Details of Guatemalan life are woven throughout the book, but it lacks the sensory descriptions that would allow readers to visualize the setting. Still, the action moves quickly, and Gabi's courage and determination are evident throughout. Readers not put off by the violence should find this an instructive and satisfying survival story.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.