Drawing from testimonies shared by refugee families from Guatemala, Pellegrino has written a gripping novel of 12-year-old Tomasa and her family, who flee for safety as their village is burned to the ground. While traveling north, they see how big landowners quickly take over the farmland after the indigenous people who have lived there for centuries are killed or forced out by soldiers. Every night of their journey, Tomasa’s father shares legends and family stories as he did each night in their village. After a harrowing border crossing into Mexico, Tomasa’s family finds help from the Sanctuary Movement. The book ends with their arrival in the United States. Journey of Dreams can introduce young adult readers to the experience of Central American immigrants and the long journey north, which is even more difficult today.
For the peaceful highlanders of Guatemala, life has become a nightmare. Helicopters slash like machetes through the once-quiet air. Soldiers patrol the streets, hunting down suspected guerillas. Villagers mysteriously disappear and children are recruited as soldiers. Tomasa’s family is growing increasingly desperate, especially after Mama goes into hiding with Tomasa’s oldest brother. Finally, after their house is razed to the ground and the villagers massacred, Tomasa, Manuelito, and baby Maria set off with Papa on a perilous journey to find Mama and Carlos, only to discover that where one journey ends, another begins. This gripping novel tells the story of how Tomasa’s family survives the Guatemalan army's brutal regime and how, in the midst of tragedy, their love and loyalty and Papa's storytelling keeps them going on their harrowing journey as refugees to the United States. Mirrored in the tapestries of Tomasa’s dreams, the dramatic events of the Guatemalan army’s "scorched earth" campaign of the 1980s are tempered with hope and the generosity of the human spirit.