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Groundwood Books

Sleeping with the Light On

Written by David Unger • Illustrated by Carlos Aquilera

For students in grades 1 - 4 | Published October 27, 2020 | ISBN 9781773063843
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Emigration & Immigration

Cover of Sleeping with the Light On

Regular price $16.95 CAD

96 pages | 7.75 in × 5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

Sleeping with the Light On

David Unger • Carlos Aquilera

Life in Guatemala is simple for young Davico and his older brother Felipe ... until soldiers invade, and the blackouts begin.

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 that Felipe knows how to light — if he can only reach the box of matches above the stove. And don’t forget the glass tank of live lobsters — including the king of them all, Genghis Khan, who stares at Davico with round unblinking eyes. 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 endure the blackouts. But it is not enough to console Davico 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.

Key Text Features

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.

Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.

Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

About the Creators

David Unger

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 Aquilera

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.

Awards and Praise

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

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

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