________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 11 . . . . February 4, 2000

cover Lost Temple of the Aztecs. (I Was There Series.)

Shelley Tanaka. Illustrated by Greg Ruhl.
Markham, ON: Madison Press Books/Scholastic Canada Ltd., 1998.
48 pp., cloth, $21.99.
ISBN 0-590-12478-1.

Subject Headings:
Aztecs-Juvenile literature.
Aztecs-First contact with Europeans-Juvenile literature.
Excavations (Archaeology)-Mexico-Mexico City-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.

**** /4

image Award-winning author Shelley Tanaka has a knack for bringing history's most fascinating stories to life. Lost Temple of the Aztecs, subtitled What It Was Like When the Spaniards Invaded Mexico, is her latest book in the popular "I Was There" series. Other titles in this series of stunningly illustrated information books for middle-years readers have included: On Board the Titanic (winner of the Silver Birch Award and the Information Book Award in 1997), Discovering the Iceman (winner of the eighth annual Mr. Christie Book Award) and The Buried City of Pompeii. Tanaka begins her story in 1978 when archaeologists discovered a giant disk depicting Coyolxsuqui, ancient moon goddess of the Aztecs, beneath Mexico City's main square. What they had unearthed was a part of the Great Temple, a vast nine-story structure surrounded by shrines and palaces, which stood at the heart of Tenochtitlan, capital city of the Aztec Empire in the 1500's. Here, on the altar of the Great Temple, priests made human sacrifices to the gods to ensure the prosperity of Moctezuma and his empire. Flashing back to 1519, Tanaka unfolds the dramatic story of the arrival of the Spaniards, under Cortes, of the innocence and gullibility of Moctezuma, and the tragic fate of the Aztecs who were betrayed and slaughtered by the invaders, then decimated by small pox.

Greg Ruhl, working with Tanaka's version of a powerful and moving story (as he did in The Buried City of Pompeii (1997) has produced vividly detailed, full page paintings of the key scenes. Interspersed with Tanaka's swiftly-paced text are dozens of photographs of unearthed treasures, drawings and sidebars detailing many aspects of Aztec life. Endpapers made up of a photographic enlargement of the Great Temple's skull rack, where remains of sacrificial victims were put on display, are a chilling reminder of the Aztecs' practice of human sacrifice. The author has included a glossary and pronunciation guide for those difficult Aztec words plus a list of books for young readers who would like to delve further into the lost world of the Aztecs.

Tanaka's imaginative use of the flashback format, her attention to authentic detail and her uncanny ability to predict the questions a curious 10 or 11 year old would be likely to ask make her an outstanding writer in the field of information books. Although Lost Temple of the Aztecs may not be a very useful resource for teachers in the elementary grades, where students will tend to be looking for books on modern Mexico, it is such a rich and rewarding book, both from a visual and narrative point of view, that it deserves a place on the school library shelf.

Highly Recommended.

Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364