Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
- Reading age: 9 to 12
Selected for the USBBY Outstanding International Book List
In the early 1500s, Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors defeated the great Aztec Empire, built a new city for colonists from Spain and took control of vast lands stretching from today's southwestern US down through most of Central America.
But many people don't know that one of the reasons for the success of this conquest was the invaluable help of a beautiful woman, Princess Malinali, known today as La Malinche. She was a Náhuatl princess from the coast lands of Tabasco whose kingdom was at war with the Aztec Empire. Because of her knowledge of Maya and Náhuatl languages, and her rapid acquisition of Spanish, she came to act as an interpreter and advisor to Cortés. She also bore him a child.
La Malinche is described here as she often is in Mexico as the embodiment of a new culture, one in which the mixing of races, Spanish and Aztec, created a new world. This view is not shared by all Mexicans, however. For some La Malinche is the symbol of a great betrayal that led to the death of millions of her fellow indigenous people. No one disagrees, however, that La Malinche was an extraordinary woman, whose life is fundamental to understanding the history of ancient and modern Mexico.
Includes beautiful illustrations by Pablo Serrano, maps, a timeline and further reading.
About the authors
Francisco Serrano is a noted Mexican poet who also writes plays, librettos and children’s books and edits literary anthologies. He is the author of The Poet King of Tezcoco (New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing), Our Lady of Guadalupe / La Virgen de Guadalupe, and La Malinche. He lives in Mexico City.
Pablo Serrano is a visual artist who studied at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), where he took classes with the painter Luis Nishizawa. He has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions and received an honorable mention in the Aguascalientes 2002 competition for young artists. He has illustrated two beautiful books about the history of Mexico — The Poet King of Tezcoco and La Malinche. He lives in Mexico City.
Susan Ouriou is an award-winning literary translator who has translated the fiction of Quebec, Latin-American, French and Spanish authors. She won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation in 2009 for Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, after first being shortlisted for The Road to Chlifa by Michèle Marineau and then for Necessary Betrayals by Guillaume Vigneault. The Road to Chlifa was also awarded an honour list placing by IBBY (International Board of Books for Youth) as were Naomi and Mrs. Lumbago by Gilles Tibo, This Side of the Sky by Marie-Francine Hébert and Pieces of Me. Necessary Betrayals was also voted one of the 100 best books of 2002 by the Globe and Mail. Another translation, The Thirteenth Summer by José Luis Olaizola, was runner-up for the John Glassco Translation Prize. She has worked as the director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre and as faculty for the Banff Centre's Aboriginal Emerging Writers residency. She is the editor of the 2010 anthology Beyond Words – Translating the World.
- Commended, USBBY Outstanding International Book List
An inventive introduction to a fascinating historical figure.
The overall design of La Malinche is well executed, resulting in an accessible overview of a complicated historic figure, discussing her mythical status without diminishing her personal history.