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Book reviews

The Maya

Here we review some of the best fiction and non-fiction books to use alongside topics about the Mayans.

The Great Kapok Tree

The Mayans believed the Kapok tree was sacred. Although this story does not directly mention the Mayans, it centres around the fate of a Kapok tree in the Amazon rainforest and for this reason many teachers use this popular text alongside their Mayan topic. This is a colourful and engaging picture book that captures the spirit of the rainforest through its beautifully detailed illustrations. It has a simple story line with a strong message about deforestation.

Check out our Great Kapok Tree Planning Pack to go with this text.

The Chocolate Tree: A Mayan Folktale

This is a popular choice of Mayan folktale for KS2. It tells the story of the Mayan king who brings his people the gift of a chocolate tree, much to the displeasure of his brother, Night Jaguar, who plots to rid the people of this special treat and keep it for the gods. The Chocolate Tree has a high appeal to lower KS2 because of its accessible text and bold illustrations.

The Hero Twins: Against the Lords of Death (A Mayan Myth)

The Hero Twins: Against the Lords of Death is a graphic novel with a high level of appeal to children in upper KS2. Follow the tale of the hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, whose special skills at the Mayan ball game Po-ta-Pok cause upset to the rulers of the land of the dead. The illustrations and added text are full of extra details that will keep pupils interested in the Mayan topic.

Rain Player

A quality picture book with high visual appeal, with the bold and colourful illustrations that are made using the cut-paper technique. The story of Rain Player centres on a boy who is challenged to save his people from drought by defeating the Rain god at a Mayan ball game.

Middleworld (Jaguar Stones)

An action-packed adventure novel filled with suspense and excitement, with a good level of depth for upper KS2. This book, which is the first in a popular series, tells the story of fourteen-year-old Max, who finds himself on a quest to rescue his archaeologist parents from the Maya underworld and to save the world from the Lords of Death.

The Corn Grows Ripe

Full of interesting details about everyday life in Mayan culture, The Corn Grows Ripe is the coming-of-age tale of a twelve-year old Mayan boy called Tigre, who is forced to take on the role of planting and harvesting the corn when his father becomes injured.

Avoid being a Mayan Soothsayer (Danger Zone)

Avoid being a Mayan Soothsayer is the perfect non-fiction text to inject some humour into your Mayans topic while introducing the conventions of information texts, including a full glossary, captions and an index. Find out about what life would have been like for the son of a Mayan soothsayer, including all of the gory bits!

The History Detective Investigates: Mayan Civilization

This jam-packed information text is written especially for the National Curriculum and answers a range of questions about the Mayan Civilization. Topics in The History Detective Investigates: Mayan Civilization include Mayan cities, kings, pyramids and food.

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