Newbery Honor Book
Illustrated by Jean Charlot
For: Middle Grades
Rating: Much better than I ever expected
Dionisio, called Tigre (meaning Jaguar) lives in a primitive village in current-day Yucatan. At 12 he is lazy and somewhat spoiled, but takes over his family's milpa (cornfield) when his father is badly injured. This corn is the family's sustenance. Yes, they have a few chickens, but it is the corn that feeds them. We get to observe the full cycle, from cutting and preparing the milpa, to the wait for rain, the sowing, the wait for rain again, and the harvest. During that time we get a glimpse into the life of modern-day Maya that is still tied to those of the ancient Maya.
Full of description, Maya and Spanish words (and a wonderful glossary), stories of gods and ceremonies and a way of life, this book was appreciated by almost all of my 27 fourth-graders. They are creating a map of the setting that has them VERY excited. A codex of 27 of the Maya words and terms will follow. This was a great novel for our Maya unit.