1953: Secret of the Andes (the case of the long lost llamas)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3/5

Ann Nolan Clark’s Secret of the Andes is a slow yet solid character piece that highlights the mysteries of the Inca Empire as a young boy who is raised in seclusion must discover his identity and find his family.

The best part of the book is the setting. Taking place high up in the mountains of the Andes, Cusi’s isolation from the rest of the world is easily felt as he only has his mentor and his llamas to keep him company. His interactions with the llamas is charming and amusing, and it’s easy to see how they become his entire world. This seclusion later contrasts against the busy city life of Cuzco that Cusi must eventually navigate. The descriptions of the land and the llamas took on a mystical quality that gave me a sense of being immersed into an unknown and long forgotten land.

I enjoyed being introduced to Incan culture with the various stories and tidbits that were told throughout the story. Several songs are featured in the book that were interesting to read about and actually added something to the book. Oftentimes, I hate when authors add long poems or songs in their stories, but these ones were well integrated into the Cusi’s coming of age narrative as he discovers who he really is.

I didn’t care much for the storyline. This book was very much an introspective piece that took a deeper look at the meaning of family. The climax of the plot revolves around the main character deciding if he should stay in the city with a new family or return home to keep caring for his llamas. Action was not really needed, but it was tough to keep reading when there is nothing compelling about the plot.

Overall, I enjoyed how Secret of the Andes took a deeper look at an ancient culture. The South American setting gave this book a magical sense of wonderment that allowed the story to grow organically. The characterization was muted, yet engaging. I would recommend this book to children who would like to learn more about ancient cultures and traditions.

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