________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 12 . . . . February 17, 2006


White Flower: A Maya Princess.

Victor Montejo. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Translated by Chloe Catan.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2005.
36 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-599-7.

Subject Heading:
Mayas-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*** /4


Meanwhile, White Flower and the young man had not slowed their pace.

After a couple of hours, the princess said, "I can feel that my father is catching up with us."

"What will we do? Shall we hide?"

"No, he would find us right away. I know how to make him go back to the palace without us," said the princess.

They stopped in the middle of the path. In the distance they could see the dust billowing up from the black deer's hooves. White Flower took a wooden comb that was in her hair. After chanting a few magic words, she threw the comb down onto the path. Instantly a hedge of thorns grew up, blocking the deer's way.


In this Mayan folktale, a prince wanders the countryside after his community has been killed by an epidemic. He asks for work at the palace of the powerful king, Witz Ak'al, and is given impossible tasks to complete, such as finding firewood in a desolate valley. White Flower, the king's daughter, is sympathetic to the young man's plight and uses her magical powers to help him. Together, they decide to flee her father's controlling grip, but they cannot outsmart the queen. The couple returns, and White Flower convinces her parents to accept their marriage.

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     In a note to the reader, it is explained that "Blanca Flor," or "White Flower," was originally a Spanish folktale that evolved into a version of Snow White. Victor Montejo's grandmother continued the oral storytelling tradition and passed on a slightly different version that forms the basis of this book.

     White Flower is a strong, resourceful character. She easily dupes "The Lord of the Mountain and the Valley" with her shape shifting transformations. Under her direction, a mirror becomes a lake, a ribbon changes into a path with seven branches, and a comb becomes a hedge of thorns.

     Montejo is a noted anthropologist, and he includes references to Mayan customs. In the fairytale ending, the young man has to carry a large pile of wood on his back to show that he can bear the burden of marriage and support a household.

     Rafael Yockteng's earth-toned watercolor illustrations are rich with atmosphere. Ornate borders feature Mayan motifs such as maize, jaguars, and serpents.

     White Flower: A Maya Princess is a worthy addition to folktale collections.


Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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