"Today the greatest challenge in publishing is distribution and discoverability. As a result, sites like [PictureBooksReview] are more important than ever to discerning readers, new authors and independent publishers."
-Steve Floyd, chief executive officer of August House books

"The interview is so amazing! I appreciate you picking up on all these aspects of what I've been doing. It's always great to talk with someone who understands what goes into these things."

- Jose Lucio, self-published author of Heave Ho!
Showing posts with label Spirit Child. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spirit Child. Show all posts

12.22.2010

Spirit Child, A Story of the Nativity (1984)

Retold by Bernardino de Sahagun

Translated by John Bierhorst

Illustrated by Barbara Cooney



Finding books like this make doing this index well worth it. I had been going through my library's Christmas section, thumbing through various Santa Claus phantasmagoria and sacrosanct religious tales. The words, "Spirit Child," along the spine caught my eye. With the words, "translated from the Aztec" on the front cover, along with the dark-skinned angels and dormant volcanoes, my interest was more than piqued.

"The text is preserved in Sahagun's Psalmodia Christiana (Mexico, 1583)," reads the tiny print on the copyright page. This was a book written entirely in the Aztec language and one of the first books to be published in the so-called New World.

It was actually translated into English specifically for this picture book. Bierhorst, the translator, happened across the tale while writing an Aztec-English dictionary based on sources from the 1500s. The artist, Cooney, traveled to Mexico City and the surroundings in order to properly illustrate it. Needless to say, this is not the same old Nativity story you've heard before.

We begin in the shadow of a smoking volcano. Families appear to be running for their lives. "For 5000 years after the world began, the devil was king," we read.

The devil looks like he is culled from a Mexican Day of the Dead celebration. There he sits, in the bowl of the volcano, a grinning, eye-less skeleton dressed in bird feathers and smoking a pipe. Skeleton girls fan him and dance for his pleasure while naked children suffer in the flames before him.

"But the name Jesus already existed before the world began. This was always his name, even before he was born," we read. "O spirit, I child, you are the flame, you are the light of the almighty father. O child, remember how you were born long ago."

Gabriel comes to visit Mary, wearing a loin cloth with green wings, bearing flowers and a fan, proclaiming, "Hail Mary, full of grace! Listen, I will tell you a great mystery."

I love that. "I will tell you a great mystery."

O spirit child! All the people of the world are waiting for you. We are prisoners tied in chains, and you can save us. You are the light and we are in darkness.

This review is linked from Tales and Their Tellers 7: "The Prayer of Saint Nicholas."
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...