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Children's Fiction Poetry (see Also Stories In Verse)

Aquí era el paraíso / Here Was Paradise

Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak’abal / Selected Poems of Humberto Ak’abal

by (author) Humberto Ak'abal

illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling

translated by Hugh Hazelton

edited by Patricia Aldana

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Aug 2021
Poetry (see also Stories in Verse), Caribbean & Latin American, Nature, Caribbean & Latin America
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 18
  • Grade: 4 to 12


A collection of poetry by one of the greatest Indigenous poets of the Americas about the vanished world of his childhood — that of the Maya K’iche’.

Aquí era el paraíso / Here Was Paradise is a selection of poems written by the great Maya poet Humberto Ak’abal. They evoke his childhood in and around the Maya K’iche’ village of Momostenango, Guatemala, and also describe his own role as a poet of the place.

Ak’abal writes about children, and grandfathers, and mothers, and animals, and ghosts, and thwarted love, and fields, and rains, and poetry, and poverty, and death.

The poetry was written for adults but can also be read and loved by young people, especially in this collection, beautifully illustrated by award-winning Guatemalan-American illustrator Amelia Lau Carling.

Ak’abal is famous worldwide as one of the great contemporary poets in the Spanish language, and one of the greatest Indigenous poets of the Americas. Ak’abal first composed his poems in K’iche’ in his mind before writing them down in Spanish.

Key Text Features


biographical information



Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.

Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.

Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

About the authors

HUMBERTO AK'ABAL was born in the Maya K’iche’ village Momostenango in Guatemala in 1952. He worked as a blanket weaver (one of the activities for which Momostenango is renowned,) a shepherd, a sweeper, then a garment maker in a maquila in Guatemala City. When he was thirty-eight, he published his first book of poetry. Ak’abal is famous worldwide as one of the great contemporary poets in the Spanish language, and one of the greatest Indigenous poets of the Americas, having written over twenty-five books. 

He died in January 2019, leaving his widow, Mayulí Bieri, and son Nakil Ak’abal Bieri.


Humberto Ak'abal's profile page

AMELIA LAU CARLING was born and brought up in Guatemala. Her parents' store sold the thread used by many Maya weavers in their extraordinary work. She was, therefore, in constant contact with Maya culture and creators from an early age. She is the author-illustrator of the celebrated books Alfombras de Aserrín(Sawdust Carpets) and La tienda de Mamá y Papá (Mama and Papa Have a Store) — winner of the Américas Award and the Pura Belpré Award for Illustration— and the illustrator of numerous other books. Though she now lives in the United States, she returns to Guatemala frequently.


Amelia Lau Carling's profile page

Hugh Hazelton is a Montreal writer and translator who specializes in the comparison of Canadian and Quebec literatures with those of Latin America. He has written four books of poetry and translates from Spanish, French and Portuguese into English; his translation of Vétiver, a book of poems by Joël Des Rosiers, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for French-English translation in 2006. He is a professor emeritus of Spanish at Concordia University in Montreal and former co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. In 2016 he won the Linda Gaboriau Award for his work on behalf of literary translation in Canada.

Hugh Hazelton's profile page

PATRICIA ALDANA was born and brought up in Guatemala. She came to Canada as an adult and founded Groundwood Books, of which she was the publisher for thirty-five years.


Patricia Aldana's profile page


  • Commended, CCBC Choices
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Commended, Junior Library Guild Selection

Editorial Reviews

Beautiful imagery ushers readers into a complex conversation.

Kirkus Reviews

[T]o be savored and ruminated upon.

CM Review of Materials

An excellent addition to poetry collections for youth, sure to also find fans among adult readers. STARRED REVIEW

School Library Journal

Vital and refreshing.

Toronto Star

[A] closely observant and at times mischievous ode to the small moments and details in quotidian life.


Lovers of poetry will delight in perusing the pages of this book.

Winnipeg Free Press

The poems have a collective evocative beauty.

A Fuse #8 Production Blog

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