The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis. Historical Fiction.
For as long as Micay can remember, with the exception of her family, all of the people in her village call her “Ugly One” because of the deep scar that runs from her eye to her lip. She is an outcast who is ridiculed, bullied, and ignored. When Paqo the village shaman makes Micay his pupil she is confused by what the Gods might have in store for her.
Themes/Content: Incas, storytelling, Machu Picchu, self-esteem, beauty, shamans, Peru, macaws, rituals, gods and goddesses, descriptive language, context clues, loneliness, destiny, family
Recommended for: Grades 6 and up, readers who are interested in the ancient Incas or Machu Picchu, readers who need reassurance about self-image
My Two Cents: This book is very different from anything I have read lately. The text is very descriptive and yet also feels slightly primitive. It is more introspective, possibly because Micay spends so much time alone. When the book begins she is very self-conscious about her appearance, and to some extent, brings her isolation upon herself. Her self-isolation and negative self-image only serve to fuel her tormentors. As much as she tries to stay strong, she is hurt by their words and actions.
Her life begins to change when a stranger from the jungle presents her with a gift of a baby macaw, who becomes her companion and confidante. She names him Sumac Huanacauri, or “Beautiful One,” and it is Sumac who leads her to the Shaman and her destiny.
It took me a little while to get into this book, but after a few chapters I was hooked. One aspect of the book that I appreciate is the fact that even though the people in her village have shunned her, her family, especially her sister, sticks by her and tries to gives her support.
Some of the descriptions of the activities and rituals of the ancient Incas may be disturbing, and although possibly historically accurate, may not be appropriate for all readers. The author includes a glossary, although she also explains the Quechua (language) of the Incas in context. Ellis also includes an author’s note and additional resources. With my limited knowledge of the ancient Incas, I would have liked the author’s note to explain her choices a bit more.
Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:
- Calvert, Patricia. The ancient Inca. New York: F. Watts, 2004. Print.
- Clark, Ann N. Secret of the Andes. New York: Puffin Books, 1980. Print.
- Gruber, Beth, Johan Reinhard, and National Geographic Society (U.S.). Ancient Inca : archaeology unlocks the secrets of the Inca’s past. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007. Print.
- Mann, Elizabeth. Machu Picchu. New York: Mikaya Press, 2000. Print.
- Scheff, Duncan. Incas. Austin, TX: Steadwell Books, 2002. Print.
- Silate, Jennifer. The Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Detroit, MI: KidHaven Press, 2006. Print.
Favorite Quote: “The more you observe, New Voice, the more you understand. Once you can interpret the voice of the world, you become its revealer.” (Ellis, Leanne S. The Ugly One. New York: Clarion Books, 2013. 135. Print.)
The Final Word(s): Pretty good for the right reader. 🙂