The Secret Legacy

$20.00 each

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Seven-year-old heroine, Ixkem, is chosen to tend to the prized cornfields once her grandfather has passed away. This moving story is rich with emotion and Mayan folklore, perfect to captivate any young reader.

Available in hardcover only.  Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Maya), and Dante Liano, The Secret Legacy, translated from the Spanish by David Unger, color illustrations by Domi (Mazateca)

Seven-year-old heroine, Ixkem, is chosen to tend to the prized cornfields once her grandfather has passed away. But Ixkem isn’t sure she can accept this great responsibility. Out in the fields, she discovers a legion of tiny people, no bigger than bananas. They are b’e’n, nahuales — secret animal spirits — and when they take Ixkem into the underworld where they live, she regales them with tales of the surface. What they offer in return helps Ixkem to accept both her grandfather’s wishes for her and the fact that she must soon wish him goodbye.

On her first day watching over her Mayan grandfather's cornfields, young Ixkem is invited by the b'e'n, spirits in the form of small humans, to visit them underground. They feed her generously and she tells them stories that explain Mayan customs and include bits of folklore. Before her return, the nahuales give her a great secret, which she passes on to her 100-year-old grandfather, allowing him to die peacefully. This story frames a somewhat disjointed collection of tales that show how humans are the smartest creatures; how Mayans fall in love, get married, and have children; how they can be both bad and good; and how important it is for people to help each other.  This moving story is rich with emotion and Mayan folklore, perfect to captivate any young reader.

Despite the hardships and poverty her people have endured—and rebelled against—ever since the Spanish conquest, Menchú’s wonderful recounting of her childhood stories in these titles, in close collaboration with Guatemalan author Liano, shows what it is to live with beauty and integrity, with land, culture and community. Domi’s oil paintings, on a jeweled palette of all the colors of the Maya forests, jungles and mountains, are a luminous symphony of colors and images. It is in the hearts of the people of Chimel, then and now, that the old stories reside. Traditionally, told stories such as the ones in Menchú’s trilogy teach children how the world works. For young Rigoberta and other Maya children, this is how they are taught about the history of the land and right behavior; about compassion, courage, and generosity; about asking permission from the nahuales, the spirits who reside in everything; about planting seeds and harvesting fruits; and ultimately, about fighting injustice and struggling for a better world. These three beautiful storybooks are about a happy little girl, secure in her world, with a “heart full of sunlight,” who, as an adult, wants for the world all that she had: “a mountain to protect me, a river to refresh me, birds to sing to me.” Both Rigoberta Menchú and her stories are an international treasure.