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Jade and Iron: Latin American Tales from Two Cultures

by Patricia Aldana, ed., Hugh Hazelton, trans., Luis Garay, illus.

The folklore of Central and South America’s indigenous peoples and the European-based tales of the region’s Latin conquerors make up equal portions of this rich, diverse collection of 14 stories. From the natives come tales of the origin of the world – of food, fire, and volcanoes – touched with magic and transformation, and from the Spanish and Portuguese settlers, unusual accounts of characters and incidents from the colonial period – a beautiful and clever witch, enchanted rainbow horses.

The stories in this anthology, although drawn from a narrow sample, represent a variety of Latin American written and oral work (sources are included). Skilfully edited by Groundwood Books publisher Patsy Aldana, who was born and raised in Guatemala (and wrote the book’s introduction), these sophisticated and disquieting stories of love, betrayal, death – even human sacrifice – are powerful, but sometimes make for difficult reading. Hugh Hazelton, the translator, specializes in Latin American literature, and though the language is smooth and concise, many of the native words and names will challenge young readers. A glossary might have satisfied precocious questioners.

The artwork by Luis Garay, a Nicaraguan who now lives in Toronto, lends visual authenticity to the stories and deepens their impact. Each story is accompanied by a full-page illustration – done in strong pen-and-ink lines overlaid with bold and vibrant watercolour – that helps convey a sense of the region’s impressive landscape as well as the story’s central action.

A beautiful and provocative book (with a striking dust jacket), Jade and Iron provides insight into two cultures that helped shape the history of our hemisphere, but may not be familar to many North American children.


Reviewer: Margaret Crawford Maloney

Publisher: Groundwood


Price: $18.95

Page Count: 64 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-88899-256-4

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 1996-7

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Picture Books

Age Range: ages 7+