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by Jo Harper, illustrated by Robert Casilla

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-890515-05-1

The story of a young man destined to be a leader of his people is also the story of the founding of Mexico. A young boy who lives “under the blazing desert sun” is called Mexicatl, after the mescal plant used to make his cradle. The strong child is told that the Morning Star will speak to one who will rise up among their people and resettle them. One day in the desert, the young man hears his name. A voice calls him to a mountaintop where he sees the vision of a cactus and an eagle. He leads some of his people to a new land. He reigns, but does not contribute to the good of the community until his mother offers her advice: “You have set yourself above the people. This is not the way of harmony.” Lesson learned, Mexicatl changes his ways and the people prosper. A note describes the Mexican legend’s history. The illustrator chooses to make the scenes very simple: the realistic depiction of a young man against a background of color that is the stylized landscape; uncluttered vistas and several portraits of Mexicatl—with movie-star good looks—at various ages. The overall effect is to enhance the legend with timeless pictures of strength and beauty. There is food for thought in Harper’s recasting of the legend, which locates the humanity at the center of true leadership. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8)