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Published by HarperCollins Books, 2004


They call Gabriela "Tree Girl" or Laj Ali Re Jayub in her native language of Quich'e. 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 sites and sounds of an unspeakable massacre. She sees a rape and murder - the ravages of guerrilla warfare. She vows to be a Tree Girl no more. Earth bound, she joins the hordes 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 threats 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.


Recommended for 8th Grade and older.


Available in hard cover, soft cover,  or audio-book.

"Mikaelsen offers a chilling account of the Mayan genocide in Guatemala ... A bitter and crucial story that needs to be told."


"This is a graphic portrayal of the worst of civil war, based on one refugee's story...the action moves quickly...readers should find this an instructive and satisfying survival story."
-School Library Journal


"The prose of this quick yet powerful read is packed with imagery and metaphors...A dramatic and compelling story...may stimulate teens to articulate their own beliefs about the contradictory nature of American foreign policy"
-Bulletin, Center for Children's Books


"Riveting coming-of-age novel...moving and poetic"

Peruse Ben's Other Engaging Stories

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