CM . . . . Volume V Number 16 . . . . April 9, 1999
Another very important feast took place every fifty-two years. In order to get ready for this ceremony the people cleaned their houses, throwing out all the pots and pans they used for cooking. Then they put out all their fires. As night fell, they became afraid because they believed that if they could not light a new fire, the world would end and monsters would descend on the earth and eat all the people.Originally translated from the Spanish by a Mexican children's publisher, this book is an account of the daily life of the Aztecs, as documented by Friar Bernardino, a sixteenth-century missionary. The friar describes the religion, feasts (including those that entailed human sacrifice), government, war, commerce and medicine as well as the flora and fauna in the area at that time. According to Bernardino, Aztec elders who knew the language and customs of their land told him about their way of life before the Spaniards came, a way of life which had all but disappeared by the time the friar completed his twelve-volume work. He offers glimpses into the superstitious nature of the people-- their belief in the art of divination, for example, which was used to predict the futures of newborn babies. The ancient Mexicans were also great astronomers, measuring time by the movement of the stars, and gifted healers, using herbal baths to heal pain.
Text is large, simple and easy to read, its fairly short sentences and direct translation serving to slow its pace. One can almost hear Friar Bernardino's voice telling the tale of the lost Aztec civilization, not only with a hint of sadness and regret, but also with a deep admiration for its people. The full-colour illustrations, very simple drawings, have been taken from the original manuscript and were probably painted by natives educated by the Spaniards. Their authenticity suits the text perfectly. A brief history of the original manuscript and a list of Aztec names, terms and definitions appear on the last page of the book.
Especially appealing to history buffs and children of Mexican descent.
Gail Hamilton is the teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School, East St. Paul, Manitoba.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.