________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Libertad.

Alma Fullerton.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008.
215 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55455-106-4.

Subject Headings:
Brothers-Guatemala-Juvenile fiction.
Guatemala-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Pam Klassen-Dueck.

**** /4


Even though Julio won’t go to school here anymore,
I want him to have his supplies
for when he does,
so I tuck Papi’s address
safely inside
one of Julio’s schoolbooks
and pack them, along with
my marimba and his uniform,
into his schoolbag.

I grab Julio’s hand
and we run, bag swinging
side to side
as we leave
the dump.


Libertad, 12, lives with his mother and his younger brother, Julio, in a shack just outside the Guatemala City dump. Papi has been gone for years to the United States to seek employment, and the family has been displaced by soldiers from their mountain village home. Consequently, they forage for enough useable garbage to resell in order to pay for their survival. When Mami is killed — buried alive in the garbage that has, until now, sustained them — Libertad and Julio attempt the treacherous and illegal trek to America to find their father.

      In spare free verse, Alma Fullerton shares this story, which is based on the experiences of real, lone children — mainly from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico — who try to enter the United States. Fullerton comments at the end of the book that eighty thousand such children take this risk every year; only a few remain in America, and many of them die along the way.

      Libertad and Julio are warm-hearted characters who take turns caring for each other in the face of these bitter circumstances. At first, Libertad seems to be the caregiver as he works to put Julio in school, and he takes charge of the trek to find Papi in America. Gradually, he realizes that he cannot always be the strong one, as Julio saves him from his solvent addiction.

      Throughout the boys’ dismal situation, Fullerton weaves strands of beauty. The sparkly marble that Libertad ‘rescues’ from the “garbage graves,” for instance, becomes a lovely metaphor for his own liberation, finally, from his destitute and dangerous life.

      Because Libertad is a very short book with lots of white space, it doesn’t take long to read, but it packs an emotional punch.

Highly Recommended.

Pam Klassen-Dueck is a graduate student in the M.Ed. program at Brock University in St. Catharine’s, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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