The Popol Vuh, sacred history of the ancient Maya in Guatemala, survives only in an altered, much later Latin copy. Hamilton included its creation myth in her collection, In the Beginning (1988); now Lattimore (whose first picture book, The Flame of Peace, 1987, was an original story about the Aztecs) uses several Mayan sources, including stonework and painted art, for her version of the same myth—which has marked similarities to and differences from Hamilton's. In each case the Creator God, having made a world with plants and animals, wishes for beings who are capable of worshipping the gods. Here, three gods compete in this task: Lizard House makes people of mud, who cannot think; Moon Goddess fashions hers of wood (hardly better, although some become monkeys); and the Maize God succeeds in combining spirits with the people who grow front the seeds he sows—people who kneel to worship their creators and thus earn the Maize God the right to sit on the high throne. Lattimore, an art historian and archaeologist, shapes this complex myth into a narrative that is entertaining as well as instructive. Her striking illustrations effectively combine blue-gray figures, as if in Mayan stone, with settings and additional figures glowing with the colors of life: earth red, green, sky blue. More fine work from an illustrator whose first books attracted unusual interest.
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