Walls of Cartagena

Overview

Calepino was blessed with good fortune. After his mother died giving birth to him on a slave ship, he was taken in by a wealthy woman who gave him every advantage. Then on his thirteenth birthday, Father Pedro, a devout priest, asks Calepino to assist him with the slaves coming into Cartagena. Soon he's fighting seasickness, living in squalor, and cursing every minute. That all begins to change when he meets Mara and Tomi, a mother and son who remind him of his own past.

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Overview

Calepino was blessed with good fortune. After his mother died giving birth to him on a slave ship, he was taken in by a wealthy woman who gave him every advantage. Then on his thirteenth birthday, Father Pedro, a devout priest, asks Calepino to assist him with the slaves coming into Cartagena. Soon he's fighting seasickness, living in squalor, and cursing every minute. That all begins to change when he meets Mara and Tomi, a mother and son who remind him of his own past.

When Tomi and Mara are sold to a cruel man, Calepino is more determined than ever to find a way to save them. Will this be his chance to change someone else's fortune, or will he put them all in more peril?

Richly detailed and researched, Julia Durango's gripping first novel brings to life what it means to be truly free.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 4-7

Born on a slave ship, Calepino is an orphan in 17th-century Cartagena. He has been raised by a Spanish noblewoman and acts as a translator for Father Pedro, who takes food, water, and medicine to the captives on the slave ships that dock in the area. On one visit he meets Tomi and his pregnant mother. They are sold to a cruel merchant, and Calepino is determined to help them escape. He has been helping Dr. López, who cares for the patients at the leper colony, and he uses his contact with the doctor to get them away from their brutal master. Then Dr. López is accused of being a Jew and imprisoned. It is, after all, the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The novel ends when readers discover that Calepino has been writing this story for him while he's in prison. Durango tells of the horrors of the slave trade by bringing it down to a more personal level. It's an involving story, but some confusion could result without background knowledge of the Inquisition or the social stigma of contracting leprosy at that time.-Diana Pierce, Leander High School, TX

Kirkus Reviews
In the voice of a reflective storyteller, a slave boy in 17th-century Cartagena, Colombia, tells his story of the injustice around him and how he makes a difference. Born on a Portuguese slave ship and rescued by Father Pedro, a Jesuit priest, 13-year-old Calepino is raised by a wealthy Spanish benefactor. Because Calepino speaks 11 languages, Father Pedro uses him as an interpreter when caring for slaves freshly arrived from Africa. He dreads descending into the slave ships with "hundreds of half-dead, terrified souls chained inside the cargo hold" and marvels at Father Pedro's saintly endurance. He also admires the selfless dedication of the Jewish doctor who cares for the exiled lepers of Cartagena. Touched by an Angolan slave and her son, Calepino vows to help them, but how? Then their very lives are threatened and he finds his own way to save them. Based on real historical characters, this fictionalized account offers both well-researched detail on a buried chapter in the African slave saga and a clever young hero. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416941026
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 7/29/2008
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 1,388,038
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 7.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Durango resides in Ottawa, Illinois, where she wrote a weekly book review column for children. She is the mother of two sons and is the author of Dream Hop, illustrated by Jared Lee, as well as Pest Fest, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus. Her work also includes Go-Go Gorillas, a sequel to Cha-Cha Chimps, both illustrated by Eleanor Taylor and Dream Away, illustrated by Robert Goldstrom. Her first novel The Walls of Cartagena was a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her most recent novel is entitled Sea of the Dead. She is a contributor the Three Silly Chicks blog and lives in Ottawa, Illinois.

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