When I published Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu: Folk Tales and Stories of Inca Life, I showed it around to a number of my publishing colleagues. I got a lot of positive feedback. I’d never published a children’s book before, but I was so charmed by the subject matter and the illustrations, and it fit so well with other Andean titles I had done, that I took the leap. Oddly, it never occurred to me to ask a child’s opinion.
I’ve given copies to all my grandchildren, and author Libby VanBuskirk has done readings with children’s groups, so I finally thought to inquire. My granddaughter Elseya is only six, but she reads way above grade level and is one of those kids who gobbles books whole, so she was up for it. She read some stories aloud to her dad and her baby sister Adalia, and her dad read some aloud to her. You’ll see in the photo that the girls are sitting in a nest of handwoven Peruvian pillows. They haven’t travelled there, but they’ve heard a lot about it. Here is her estimation of some of the stories.
“I would recommend this book to all people who have heard about Inca life and like it. I really like ‘The First Hair Cutting’ because it is about a girl learning to respect her hair and receiving and giving presents and growing up. She learns that she would trade her hair for things her family needs, like a cow.
“‘The Bear Prince’ is in the middle: good and bad. It is good because Kanta gets love of a bear prince. She lives with him for most of her life eating mostly fruits from the jungle. Her child is half bear and half human. When she goes home, her parents play a trick on the father bear—he is turned into a spirit. But good things can happen. The child’s life is exciting and he turns into a full bear at the end.
“I also really liked ‘Tell Me, Bright Stars’ because a girl is trying her most to keep up for her family because there’s a new baby. In that one, they need food for the baby to grow. They also need to make up to the midwife for her doing lots of work. So the girl sells her weavings. It was very grand of her and she got lots of money for her family.
“I also liked ‘Shepherds in the Mountains’ because the girl rescues a newborn lamb from a fox. I like how she weaves cause she is most very good at it. She goes into a cave whenever a storm comes. They have to get all of the sheep and lambs into the cave too, just to keep them safe.
“I liked these stories because they all are about girls who get the something that they want.”
These are not the opinions I have heard from adults who have read the book. The little boy turns into a bear, and that is a good thing? Girls working hard to get something they want? These are strong, fearless responses. I’m going to keep an eye on this granddaughter of mine. Meanwhile, if you have the book (you can get it on Amazon or at ClothRoads), share it with a child. Encourage them to comment back to Elseya. Helping them type is not cheating. No telling what we might learn about that youngest generation. The book is crafted for kids roughly ages seven to twelve, but really for children of all ages (including you and me).