This book ended up being better than I expected it to be. At first, the book’s tone was really off-putting, trying too hard to be conversational and “modern” in a way that didn’t jibe with the ancient Mayan setting. Even if one buys into the idea that goddesses are immortal regardless of whether people continue to believe in them, it’s jarring to hear one refer to herself as a “rockstar” in the first-person or to compare the size of an ancient ball court to a modern basketball court. Still, once I was able to get past the tonal issues, I appreciated this book’s age-appropriate handling of a possessive/abusive marital relationship and Ixchel’s strength in overcoming it.
This book may have fallen into two-star territory if not for the impressive backmatter. I loved the accessible notes that served as a non-intimidating entry into Mayan mythology for kids who were exposed to it for the first time. Especially helpful was the “Established myth/fact/fiction” chart that detailed where certain parts of this retelling came from. Since I am as unfamiliar with Mayan mythology as the typical 9-year-old, I found this all to be very educational. I also liked the final chapter, “Ixchel Today” in which Ixchel gave a brief overview of how her legacy has lived on despite the colonization of Mexico.
As educational fodder, this is good, accessible stuff that could well spur kids’ interest in history, ancient mythology, and other cultures. As fiction asked to stand on its own merits it is less successful, although it’s nice to see a publisher tackling some lesser-known mythology for a young audience.