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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Poet King of Tezcoco (The)
by Francisco Serrano
Age Range: 6-8
Francisco Serrano’s biography is painstakingly researched and is the perfect material for an exciting story about a brave king from a forgotten far away land. Lushly illustrated by Pablo Serrano in a style resembling historical South American paintings, this book has an almost mythical quality that you notice from the moment you first lay eyes on the cover. The arresting image of Nezahualcóyotol in full war dress will lure you in and the rest of the book will not disappoint. Particularly beautiful are full-page Aztec style pictures of the city of Tezcoco and Nezahualcóyotol’s palaces and bloodthirsty readers will not be disappointed in the pictures of the punishments Nezahualcóyotol’s court meted out.
The translation is also skilfully done so that the book reads like a story and draws readers into the life of the king. Readers will invest emotions in his actions and get a true feel of a culture so different from their own. The book even has a further reading list, glossary and detailed timeline that will be of great use to those interested in or studying the Aztecs, South America and Nezahualcóyotol and the era in which he lived. Francisco Serrano’s desire to share his subject and make sure this long obscure king is not forgotten is very evident and it seems that he truly wants his enthusiasm to rub off on his readers.
However, the dedication and the seriousness with which he takes his project is also a flaw. Serrano has lovingly researched this biography and writes it as a story so that children will enjoy it as well. Yet the story seems overly detailed in places – the description of the legal system and the punishments that went with it seems rather superfluous and technical although it is interesting - and never quite loses the feel of a biography despite the beautiful prose. The story becomes quite a technical read in parts and children may find that the passages get tedious. Although the book does not have many pages and has lot of illustrations, there is a lot of text on the pages and the book could become quite a chore if a child loses interest. This would be a real shame as the character is interesting and the story – when it is not bogged down- is well told.
This is an enchanting book in many ways and it is informative and well worth a read, especially if you have a child interested in or studying the Aztecs. But it is only worth a read if a child is interested in the premise and likely to cope with the sometimes quite long and technical text of the story. The illustrations are wonderful and cannot be missed, but even illustrations can only take a story for children so far when the author digresses into discussing legal systems and court politics.
Abby Phillips (2012)