Title: Walk the World’s Rim
Author: Betty Baker
Major Themes: American Southwest, Exploration, Mexico, Spanish Explorers
Synopsis: A young Indian boy travels with a group of Spanish explorers from Texas to Mexico, and learns a lot about life and about himself on the way.
Some books are just as good on the third reading as they were on the first. I just finished reading Walk the World’s Rim for at least the third, maybe the fourth, time, and enjoyed it just as much each time. Betty Baker has crafted a memorable account of the Spanish exploration of the American Southwest.
Chakoh has spent the entire 14 years of his life in a very poor village in present-day Texas. All he has known is hunger, and in winter, cold. The year that the Men-From-the-Sun came to stay with them for awhile was no different. Three of these men were white-skinned, but the fourth, Esteban, was very dark. And he was also great fun to spend time with. He taught Chakoh Spanish and told him fantastic tales of the wonders of Mexico—especially about having all the food you could eat there! When the men left the village to continue working their way toward Mexico, Chakoh went with them to learn about their god, in hopes of finding the key to having enough for his people to live on.
The journey was long and hard. There were new dangers to face and people to outwit in each new Indian village the group arrived in. Chakoh kept his eyes open for powerful medicine in each place they went. Especially memorable were the villages of the Tea Drinkers and the Buffalo People—each time, Esteban’s creative, fast thinking saved the party.
Chakoh despised slaves. They were cowards who allowed themselves to be captured rather than dying. How could any brave warrior ever allow himself to become a slave? It was not until long after they arrived in Mexico, however, that he realized the truth about Esteban. The discovery that Esteban was a slave shook his world. Would he ever be able to trust his one-time best friend again? Also, while in Mexico, he became accustomed to having much food. How would this affect his outlook on life? Chakoh’s thought processes are very interesting. I found it quite intriguing to watch him change through the book.
This story is based on real people and a real expedition. Much of it, of course, is invented, since we don’t know very many details. It is, however, based on Cabeza de Vaca’s disastrous expedition to Florida, and Esteban was a real person. The ending is speculation, since no one really knows what happened to Esteban. As an introduction to the Spanish conquest of the Southwest, it is great. I also like it for a picture of what the lust for gold will do to a person.
WARNING: A man is killed in chapter 12.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15