by Ann Cameron

View All Available Formats & Editions

A young Guatemalan girl searches for the family she was stolen from eight years earlier.

She was little and quick and pretty. Her mother nicknamed her Colibrí, Spanish for "Hummingbird". At age four she was kidnapped, torn from her parents on a crowded bus in Guatemala City. Since then, she's traveled with "Uncle," the ex-soldier and wandering beggar who has


A young Guatemalan girl searches for the family she was stolen from eight years earlier.

She was little and quick and pretty. Her mother nicknamed her Colibrí, Spanish for "Hummingbird". At age four she was kidnapped, torn from her parents on a crowded bus in Guatemala City. Since then, she's traveled with "Uncle," the ex-soldier and wandering beggar who has renamed her Rosa. Uncle has always told Rosa that he searched for his parents but had no success. There's almost no chance Rosa will ever find them--but Rosa still remembers and longs for them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Achieving an almost hypnotic intensity, this taut novel invites readers to sample both savory and bitter flavors of Guatemalan culture as Cameron (The Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods) creates a melting pot of mixed values, religions and races, where both the pure and not-so-pure of heart have faith in a spirit world. The narrator, a 12-year-old girl, navigates an uncertain, mysterious world; in bits and pieces, the author reveals that Tzunun (Mayan for "hummingbird," which is colibri in Spanish) was kidnapped at age four, while her family was visiting Guatemala City. In the intervening eight years, Tzunun has wandered from village to village with the man she knows only as "Uncle." Most of her early childhood has slipped from her memory, but she does remember that the "first job" her mother gave her was "to be honest." Cameron's understated prose eloquently expresses the complex, interdependent relationship between Tzunun and her kidnapper, who remain linked even though they feel little affection for each other. Tzunun does not leave Uncle because she is afraid of being alone, and Uncle keeps close watch over Tzunun because a fortuneteller predicted that she will lead him to treasure some day. Tension mounts as Tzunun is pressured to lie, cheat and eventually steal for Uncle. In the end, her strong morality is both a saving grace and a threat to her survival, freeing her from Uncle but putting her in danger of his vengeance. Tzunun's struggle to stay true to herself is moving and suspenseful. If the protagonist's final destiny feels somewhat contrived, her growth is convincing nonetheless. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Kidnapped at the age of four by a con man who keeps her only because he has been told she will lead him to a treasure, Colibrí, now called Rosa, yearns for her parents, even after eight years. She has always been obedient to "Uncle" but now, at the age of twelve, he takes her to a town where he and a friend plot to steal a valuable statue from a church. Rosa senses this is wrong and tells the priest. Uncle and his friend are imprisoned, but he escapes and goes in search of her. The suspenseful conclusion will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Cameron creates a vivid picture of the Guatemalan landscape and gives insight into the cultural life of the people. The influence of the ancient Mayan culture brings an element of mysticism which is key to the story. The terror created by the late twentieth-century political situation is presented in a flashback that relates the events of a massacre of innocent people. Cameron never sensationalizes the events. They are presented as testament to the character of Uncle. She puts all these elements together in a smoothly written and compelling coming-of-age story with a memorable heroine. 2003, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 12 to 15.
— Sharon Salluzzo
Cameron has lived in Guatemala for 20 years and she obviously understands the people and their history and culture well. Colibri is the voice of the story; she is a twelve-year-old girl on the streets with her "uncle" who is a beggar, a petty thief. Colibri does whatever her uncle wants her to do as they travel from village to village, because although she has vague memories of a time before, when she was a little child in a loving home, by now she has become enslaved to the wishes of this selfish man. The book is about how she finds herself, because by the end of the story she is able to defy her uncle. The tension builds as Colibri and the uncle move in with Raimundo, who plots the theft of a statue in the local church. He lies to the naïve, trusting Colibri to enlist her help. But she knows stealing is wrong, and she gets the courage to report the robbery to the local priest, which results in the imprisonment of her "uncle." Afraid of what the man will do if he gets out of jail, she goes on the run with Raimundo's dog as a companion, learning to think for herself for a change. A midwife healer takes her in (which is perhaps why I associate this book with The Midwife's Apprentice, by Karen Cushman) and prepares her for the final confrontation with the enraged "uncle" once he escapes from prison. The life on the streets and in the simple homes of Guatemala is described clearly, as is the mixture of cultures—Indian and Spanish—including vocabulary, clothes, and religion. The plight of Colibri as a kidnapped child whose spirit has been nearly destroyed is painfully real, which is why her ability to reconnect to people who love and respect her is such a treasure for readers. She is able todiscover the person she truly is, and move away from the obedient ghost-child she had become. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 228p.,
— Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A suspenseful story set in Guatemala and steeped in cultural details and traditions. Told by "Uncle" that she was abandoned by her parents eight years ago, 12-year-old Tzun n Chumil learns that this dishonest man had kidnapped her, and she is determined to escape his clutches. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twelve-year-old Tzunún barely remembers her life before Uncle, but what she does remember features a loving mother and father. Uncle is far from loving, traipsing her over the Guatemalan countryside and forcing her to assist him in fraudulent and humiliating begging schemes. Life with Uncle is barely a life, but he's the only security she has. His conviction that Tzunún will bring him fortune leads him first to consult a fortune-teller for confirmation and then to force Tzunún to assist in a church robbery. These two encounters force Tzunún to examine herself and finally to reject submission, as she first thwarts the robbery and then flees to live with Do-a Celestina, the fortune-teller-until the destiny that she shares with Uncle exerts itself. Tzunún is an entirely sympathetic narrator, her heartbreakingly ingenuous voice at turns describing modern-day rural Guatemala, and plumbing her own moral depths with complete believability. Readers will ache with her longing for love and her need to claim her own individual humanity. Painful, beautiful, and ultimately triumphant. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Spanish-language Edition
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
11 - 14 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >