Tree Girl

Tree Girl

4.4 20
by Ben Mikaelsen

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They call Gabriela Tree Girl. 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 vows to be Tree Girl no more and joins the hordes of


They call Gabriela Tree Girl. 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 vows to be Tree Girl no more and 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 and thirst, 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?

Ages 12+

Editorial Reviews

"Dedicated to the real Tree Girl who . . . shared her story . . . during a long Guatemalan night," this riveting coming-of-age novel chronicles the middle teen years of Gabriela Flores. At fifteen, tree climbing gives her a quiet and private sanctuary until U.S.-trained Guatemalan soldiers surround her village. She escapes two massacres that kill her teacher, schoolmates, and most of her family. Determined to save her sister and a baby whose birth she assists, the fleeing Gabriela seeks food in a pueblo. Soldiers invade it. Climbing and hiding in a tree, she witnesses rape, torture, and murder. Traveling north across the Mexican border, she reunites with her sister and the baby in a refugee camp, where she eventually offers play and schooling to the camp children. Gabriela bonds with a fellow teacher who leaves to join the guerrillas. She decides to follow but discovers that, after almost two years, her new life with a different family compels her to teach and to help others. As with the nonfiction First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (Harper Collins, 2000), this moving and poetic based-on-fact novel explores personal grief and moral responsibility in the face of brutality. As does Mud City (Groundwood, 2003/VOYA April 2004), it presents the challenges of the refugee camp and the pull of national and family roots. With no historical notes, this novel probably requires a reader familiar with international affairs, but it might be emotionally powerful enough to motivate the less experienced to learn more. VOYA Codes 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades10 to 12). 2004, Harper Collins, 240p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Lucy Schall
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2004: Mikaelsen writes of events during the bitter civil war in Guatemala in the 1980s, based on a story told to him by a survivor of this war. The narrator, Gabriela, is living in a small Mayan village, attending school nearby, enfolded in a loving family, when disaster strikes. Government soldiers, little more than ragtag thugs, are convinced that the small villages in Gabriela's district are harboring rebels—communists. They murder the schoolteacher and gun down families; in the horror Gabriela escapes by hiding high up in trees. As she makes her way north to a refugee camp, she witnesses further atrocities, again hiding in a tree. At the camp, Gabriela meets a teacher named Mario and together they organize activities for the children in the camp and start a school, but eventually she and Mario face difficult decisions about the future. Mario decides to join the guerillas and return to Guatemala to help the Mayans survive the massacres by the government soldiers. Gabriela is heartbroken to be separated from Mario. The camp is filthy, the supplies are meager, yet Gabriela decides in the end to stay where she is, teaching the children, until there is peace and they can return home to Guatemala. This is a powerful story, told simply, with fierce denunciation of the American government that supports the soldiers committing the massacres. Yet, it is Americans who keep the refugees alive in the camps, supplying food and medicine—not enough, to be sure, but something. The book will have special appeal to American teenagers whose parents came to America to escape those horrible years of civil war in Central America, and to allwith an interest in that part of the world. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, HarperTempest, 229p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
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 Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mikaelsen offers a chilling account of the Mayan genocide in Guatemala. Rumors of war and sporadic appearances of soldiers disturb the adults in Gabriela's small cant-n (village). Gabriela wants only to think about her upcoming quincea-era (15th-birthday ceremony) and climbing the trees she loves, but on the night of the party, soldiers steal her brother. The narrative voice falters at the beginning, distractingly full of hindsight, but improves by sounding immediate in the middle. War escalates quickly into rape, torture, and horrifyingly sadistic slaughter, with the peaceful Quiche (Maya Indians) totally at the mercy of Guatemalan soldiers. Gabriela's schoolmates and teacher are shot in front of her; her family and neighbors are murdered and the cant-n burned while she's at market. Escaping with one sister, Gabriela walks north to Mexico and eventually reaches a refugee camp. Lack of any author's note leaves this little-known, decades-long piece of cruel history (which the UN later ruled genocide) in a void. Still, a bitter and crucial story that needs to be told. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.05(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Ben Mikaelsen is the winner of the International Reading Association Award and the Western Writers of America Spur Award. His novels have been nominated for and won many state reader's choice awards. These novels include Red Midnight, Rescue Josh McGuire, Sparrow Hawk Red, Stranded, Countdown, Petey, and Tree Girl. Ben's articles and photos appear in numerous magazines around the world. Ben lives near Bozeman, Montana, with his 700-pound black bear, Buffy.

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Tree Girl 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Misty Carter More than 1 year ago
I read this book for AR pts at my school and i loved this book so much! I always wanted to read it and i finished in 3 days! It had a good story line, great characters and great action, it kept moving on and there was never a slow part. I recommend this book, Easy read!
Sierra Clegg More than 1 year ago
Excellently written. Tugged my heart strings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got to meet Ben Mikaelsen in school and I had like 2 seconds to talk with him. But the book was really good. It was more shocking then any of his other books. If you don't like books with a lot of details and a story revolving around war than this book is not for you. But this book is very good over all.
otulissa More than 1 year ago
just when you think all the genocids have been accounted for in movies and history books you run into this. I deep story of a girl who doesn't see heself has pretty but prefers adventure, even more so in the trees. Gabby is my kind of character, the osrt who are averege in the beginning but end up facing terrible challenges. The things she sees will break your heart twice but at the same time educate you on this little known subject. Tree Girl is a book for all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book tree girl is about a brave girl who is to be challenged on the very night of her birthdaay she travels with her siblings knowing her only hope is too far for one trip through the woods . As she travels she soon runs into a woman who dies giving birth to a child who is destined to be her little sister. She must run from soldiers only to find out her only hope has no more space for her and her family. But don't worry she still has one last hope! This is my favorite book and i reccomend it to anyone and everyone!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book us definatly not fir children under the age of 11. It is considered a teen book and should be read by teens and adults. It is about a girl named Gabriella who is an indio. She looses her family because there was a huge massace in her village and all she finds alive are her youger sister alicia and her younger brother Antonio. Wanna know more? Read thd book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will have you in teachers,suprisement, and wanting to keep reading, one of the best and the fact it was a true story can teach us how to stop history repeating itself
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very good! I love bens books he really has good boos he is a great athou try it you will like
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best books i have ever read. My geography teacher asined this book for a project. Every body thoutgh it was going to terible but it was so good.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It's been a few years since I read this book, but it is my favorite book nonetheless. The story is one that most won't forget. It has a positive message in it that anyone can easily enjoy. The ending to the book was one that I will NEVER forget. This book was aimed for mostly teens to read, but I think that just about anyone can enjoy a story like this. It's not a long read, but rather a nice little novel that I would recommend to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story of one girl's courage to survive. Gabi has to face the struggle of losing all of her loved ones in a violent massacre, and she finally realizes that she is on her own. The bravery to go for months of starvation, and maybe even more harm from soldiers. She will go through all this to be reunited with her younger sister, Alicia. On the quest to find her sister, she finds herself. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone under the age of 13, because of some violence. Setting that aside, this is a captivating and truly moving novel that you will never forget. Gabi has to be strong for herself, and not give up. Family is an important aspect of this book, how every minute spent with family can make a person bolder. Those are some reasons I rated this book a three. Ben Mikaelsen, the author, has written many good books, for example 'Touching spirit bear', and one of my personal favorites 'Rescue Josh McGuire'. Plus many more that I have not had the chance to read yet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gabriela's Mami states 'Gabriela when you climb a tree it takes you closer to heaven.' In this book Gabriela, the tree girl, loves to climb trees. Gabriela says that she feels safer when she is up in the trees. When her family finds out that the soldiers are coming and a war is starting, they don't know what to do. So they spend as much time together as they can. When the soldiers came, Gabriela threw herself up in a tree and watched her family and village get destroyed. She then journeys to survival camps and on her way she is stunned by the way people are treated and tortured by the soldiers. I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of 13-years-old. I enjoyed this book very much. It took me on a rollercoaster of emotions. At times I was sad, happy, disgusted, and other emotions I cannot explain. This book is full of murder, vandalism, and rape, so I recommend you ask your parents of teacher if it's appropiate for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A young teen named Gabi from Guatemala loves to climb trees. There is a war going on in the country. On her Quincenera, her 15 birthday, Guerillas come to her party and take her brother away. She does not know what will happen to him. After that moment everything was downhill for her. Her mother gets very sick and her father dies in a fire because the guerillas set her village on fire. The only family her has left is her very young sister. She wants to go to finish school and get her education. She goes on a picnic by the river with he class mates and teacher. The guerillas come and make the classmates watch the murdering or their beloved teacher. She must run away with her sister to save her life. She climbs the tree so the soldiers will not find her and escape death. Then one day she loses her loses her sister trying to save her own life climbing another tree witnessing rape, shootings, and burning or young women and children. She has to walk to a refugee camp in Mexico with no one a baby she finds and herself. At the camp she re-unites with a family member that will not speak to her. Together she climbs the trees that save her life her life and see the heavens.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have you ever wished that there was a non-fiction book that was not so incredibly boring? Well all you readers this is the book for you. It¿s about a Spanish girl, Named Gabriela, who has some incredibly hard things happen to her in her life. This is happening at the same time as a war when all the Spanish villages are being wiped out one by one. Even on the night of her quinchary (fifteenth Birthday) they have problems. She is the only one in her family to go to school. So she feels that her family is having problems so she should drop out to take care of them. Gabriela's parents think that, that is out of the question for now. She comes home from school on day and expects to be greeted by her family. But when she comes home something terrible had happened. So now she has to continue on a journey to survive by herself. She runs into some good things, but also some terrible things along the way. Read this book because it¿s the best book EVER!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mikaelsen's portrayal of the Guatemalan genocide from the point of view of a 15 year old observer makes accessible to young people the obscene atrocities of war. Mikaelen artfully takes the horror implicit in the opening massacre in his earlier book, Red Midnight, creating thought provoking imagery one cannot ignore. In this war, as in the Iraq conflict, the United States is not blameless. Mikaelen ensures the reader will consider that fact on the one hand and the humanitarian aide provided at the refugee camp on the other.
Morgan Callies More than 1 year ago
Still one of my favorite books to this day!