Sleeping with the Light On

Sleeping with the Light On


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Davico lives with his family above La Casita – the Little House – in Guatemala City in the early 1950s. But it’s not just a little house. It’s also the family restaurant!

The restaurant provides plenty of distraction and adventure for Davico and his older brother, Felipe. The mean cook, Augusto, and the always-late waiter, Otto, love to play tricks on Davico. There’s a huge oven in the gas cookstove, which Felipe knows how to light — if he can only reach the box of matches above the stove. And there’s the endless fascination of the glass tank of live lobsters — including the king of them all, Genghis Khan, who stares at Davico with round unblinking black eyes, waving his antennas like submarine periscopes. Could Genghis Khan climb on the back of the other lobsters and get out of the tank, Davico wonders. Could he move faster on land than in the water?

Then one day, Davico hears shooting in the streets. There are blackouts every evening, and the family must sleep under the big wooden table in the dining room. People stop coming to the restaurant, and tanks and soldiers swarm the front of the National Palace, where a shoeshine boy warns the brothers that the gringos are coming.

But what does that mean, and who are the gringos?

Davico wants to be brave, but the shooting and tanks and airplanes flying overhead terrify him. He finds comfort in the special lamp that his father buys him to comfort him during the blackouts. But it is not enough to console him when his parents announce that it’s time to leave for the United States of America, where no one speaks Spanish, and everything is different.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781773063843
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication date: 10/27/2020
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 743,131
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
Age Range: 6 - 9 Years

About the Author

David Unger is an award-winning translator and author born in Guatemala. In 2014 he was awarded Guatemala’s highest literary prize, the Miguel Ángel Asturias National Prize in Literature. He is the US representative for the Guadalajara Book Fair, and teaches at City College in New York City.

Carlos Vélez Aguilera is an editorial illustrator and comics artist who has illustrated more than twenty children’s books, and is the author-illustrator of the graphic novel Salón Destino.  He has been recognized with two illustration awards in the catalogue for the International Children's and Youth Book Fair in Mexico. Carlos lives in Mexico City.

Read an Excerpt

Across from the stove, there is a big glass tank filled with lobsters. They are speckled creatures with long antennas and lots of warts on their legs. They all have funny names like Don Quixote, Superman, Hannibal, King Arthur and Genghis Khan...

I can spend hours and hours watching the lobsters moving slowly along the bottom of the tank. They are as ugly as giant iguanas, except they live underwater.

When I press my face against the glass, I am sure they know I am there. Yet they never react.

Only Genghis Khan comes up to my face. He stares at me through his small round eyes. He never blinks.

He is definitely the king. He climbs on the backs of the other lobsters and sticks his antennas all the way out of the water. It’s as if he’s using them to breathe. Maybe his antennas are like submarine periscopes.

What is he looking for? Maybe he is using them to try to find me.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for David Unger and Sleeping with the Light On:

“Unger conveys the claustrophobia and anxiety caused by the looming war in just a few pages while building Davico’s life in broad yet vivid strokes.” — Kirkus Reviews

“While in time and place this specific situation is far away for Canadian children today, it speaks to the many similar situations occurring in strife-ridden countries even now, providing much opportunity for discussion.” — CM: Canadian Review of Materials

“Mid-level readers (ages 7-10) who have faced traumatic moves, or have friends who have had to do so, will appreciate Davico’s story.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“David Unger’s new book is an intelligent, tender and an extremely readable account.” — A Trumpet of Sedition Blog

"This is a great book in a small package. The language is colorful, descriptive, and it’s just really well written." — Maine State Library

Customer Reviews