The captivating story of fifteen-year-old Lorenzo Beonfiacio gives American readers a new perspective of the 1836 battle at the Alamo, an old mission near San Antonio, Texas. Lorenzo, a poor, motherless boy from a tiny village in Mexico, is conscripted by gunpoint to join the Mexican Army, led by General Santa Anna. Garland paints superb word pictures, portraying unspeakable living conditions and horrible scenes of death and war. The best part of the book is the characterization. The reader is pulled gently into the mind and heart of Lorenzo as he reveals his hatred toward Santa Anna, his love for his friends and family, and his fears about the future. The author's thorough research is evident as she describes the landscape, climate, and culture and gives insights into the inner workings of the Mexican army. Designated for ages 10 and up, In the Shadow of the Alamo contains significant lessons about life, war and history. 2001, Gulliver Books, 282 pp.,
Deena Williams Newman
When soldiers ride through his small Mexican village, fifteen-year-old Lorenzo Bonifacio is abducted and forced to join General Santa Anna's army as it marches north toward El Alamo and the rebellious "norteamericanos." Given the custom of the times, Lorenzo's aunt, his two young sisters, a rather pesky goatherd, Catalina, and her aging grandfather follow along to provide meals and other comforts. But no part of the journey is easy. During the months before Lorenzo is discharged, he endures all the horrors of battle including exhaustion, starvation, and a late spring blizzard, which kills Catalina's grandfather and Lorenzo's young sisters. In this realistic historical novel, author Garland tells an engaging story filled with interesting, personable characters. And, she accurately portrays the horrors of war. In one of the final battles, Lorenzo sees cannons tear off enemy arms and legs, witnesses the death of a rebel no older than he and tries to fulfill his promise to execute his commanding officer rather than leave him behind at the scene of the battle. Because the publisher recommends this novel for ages 10 up, this becomes a troublesome book. Ten year olds are able to understand the graphic details of war as developed by author Garland. However, the lighthearted tone she takes in the opening chapter leads her readers to believe that they are embarking on an adventuresome tale of misadventure. Who wouldn't want to continue reading a first person account in which the main character states he wouldn't have been in the army were it not for the goatherd Catalina and his own very bad luck. Perhaps the author meant to demonstrate how easily one's fortune can change. Certainly, she wanted herreaders to feel the horrors of war. It might have been better, however, if author Garland had let her readers know she trusted them to understand the seriousness of the conflict, even from the first page. A glossary of Spanish terms is provided at the end of the novel.
When a group of soldiers rides into fifteen-year-old Lorenzo Bonifacio's remote village one November afternoon, he knows that they appear for only one reasonconscription into the Mexican army. Marching away from the safety of his village toward the Texan rebels at the Alamo, Lorenzo comforts himself with the hope that along the way he will find his father, who had been conscripted nine years earlier. Against Lorenzo's wishes, his aunt, his two sisters, and Catalina, the village goatherd, join the soldacteras, a group of women and children who follow fathers, husbands, and sons along the road to war. Much of this novel details the arduous march, the anticipation of battle, and the growing resentment of the troops towards General Santa Anna, whose tyrannical hand pushes them on. At times, the story dips into the relationships between characters: Lorenzo's growing friendship with Esteban Esquivel, the haughty son of the village's wealthy landowner; his search for his long-lost father; and his ignorance of his love for Catalina. Lorenzo's story is engaging, but his relationships seem to develop behind the scenes of the march to the Alamo. Italicized Spanish words throughout and a glossary at the end lend an authentic, if somewhat distracting, element. Nevertheless the army detail and suspense of the impending battle make this novel a good fit for fans of historical fiction or for assignments touching on the Alamo. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Harcourt, 288p, $17. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Blayne Tuttle Borden
Gr 5-8-Although Lorenzo Bonifacio is only 15, he is conscripted into the Mexican army for 10 years. At first, he and Esteban Esquivel, the 17-year-old son of the wealthiest landowner in the region, have nothing to do with one another, but in the end they become friends. Life in the army is vividly described, and the bloody battle scenes are realistically drawn. Hardships such as the lack of food, arbitrary justice, and the total loss of personal rights are part and parcel of this military experience. The conscripts are given outdated weapons and are not trained for battle as they are considered mere "cannon fodder." The women and children who followed the men, including Lorenzo's aunt and two younger sisters, suffer the same hardships, and many do not survive the arduous trip on foot to Texas. Santa Anna is portrayed as cruel and self-centered, desiring personal glory at all costs. Enduring physical hardships and personal tragedies, Lorenzo is transformed from a simple farmer to a soldier, and from a child to a man. Told from his perspective, the story provides a different point of view on a well-known historical event. Readers will sympathize with both the Mexican soldiers and with the rebels. A book that captures and holds young people's attention.-Lana Miles, Duchesne Academy, Houston, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.