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Groundwood Books

The Secret Legacy

Written by Rigoberta Menchú • Written by Dante Liano • Translated by David Unger • Illustrated by Domi

For readers 8 - 12 years old | Published September 01, 2020 | ISBN 9781773064550
JUVENILE FICTION / Legends, Myths, Fables / Caribbean & Latin American

Cover of The Secret Legacy

Regular price $14.95 CAD

64 pages | 9.21 in × 6.14 in
Print Format

About this book

The Secret Legacy

Rigoberta Menchú • Dante Liano • David Unger • Domi

Seven-year-old Ixkem is chosen by her grandfather amongst all the villagers to inherit the responsibility for tending his special cornfield. Ixkem goes to the field and begins to shout and stomp to frighten away the animals who would like to share the harvest. Suddenly a mass of tiny creatures appear — the b'e'n — secret animal spirits of which there is one for every human on earth. They take Ixkem into the underworld, where she tells them the amazing stories that her grandfather has told her. In exchange the b'e'n whisper a secret for her to take to her grandfather. Once he hears the secret, he is ready to go to his final sleep in peace, knowing that the b'e'n and Ixkem have exchanged their knowledge and his legacy is secure.

About the Creators

Rigoberta Menchú

Rigoberta Menchú Tum won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. She lives in Guatemala and devotes herself to fighting for the rights of Maya Guatemalans and other Indigenous people in the Americas as head of the Fundacion Rigoberta Menchu Tum. She has received numerous international awards and honorary degrees and has also written Crossing Borders: An Autobiography, and I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Her other books for young people, co-written with Dante Liano, include The Girl from Chimel and The Honey Jar, both companion books to The Secret Legacy.

Dante Liano

Dante Liano is an eminent Guatemalan writer and National Literature Award laureate. He currently lives in Milan, where he teaches Latin American literature. He is the author of The Man from Montserrat and The San Andres Mystery, and co-author of The Girl from Chimel and The Honey Jar.

David Unger

David Unger is an award-winning translator and author born in Guatemala. His work has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Chinese. He received Guatemala’s 2014 Miguel Angel Asturias National Prize in Literature for lifetime achievement, though he writes exclusively in English and lives in the US. His many translations include The Girl from Chimel, The Honey Jar and Popul Vuh: A Sacred Book of the Maya.


Domi is a well-known Mazateca artist, whose vivid illustrations appear in many children’s books, including The Story of Colors by Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos, The Night the Moon Fell (La noche que se cayó la luna) and The Race of Toad and Deer (La carrera del sapo y el venado), both by Pat Mora. She has also illustrated The Girl from Chimel and The Honey Jar, by Rigoberta Menchú and Dante Liano. She lives in Tlaquepaque, Mexico.

Awards and Praise

Praise for The Secret Legacy:

International Latino Book Awards — Best Picture Book, English, 2008 (runner-up)

“There’s a lot of humor in these sparkling folktales, nicely complemented by Domi’s vibrant, Chagall-esque oils.” — School Library Journal

Praise for The Honey Jar:

Commended Americas Award Title, 2007
Long-listed Child Magazine Best Book Award, 2006

“This collection by a Nobel Peace Prize winner is a first-purchase addition to any library that includes African legends and myths, Native-American how and why stories and the literary tales of Rudyard Kipling.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Colorful naive oil paintings and a friendly style that is at once childlike and conversational add to the book’s appeal.” — School Library Journal

“If there’s a word to describe Rigoberta Menchú Tum and her mother and all the Maya who continue to struggle to maintain land, culture and community, that word would be courageous… Both Rigoberta Menchú and her stories are an international treasure. Highly recommended.” — Beverley Slapin, MultiCultural Review