I’ve already read seven of the ten Newbery Award winners from the 1950s, so I had only a few options to pick from if I wanted to read at least one award winner for the Newbery Through the Decades challenge for this month. After perusing the descriptions of the three 1950s award winners I had not read, Miss M and I chose, Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark, the 1953 Newbery winner.
Secret of Andes is a coming of age story. Cusi, an Indian boy in Peru of Inca decent, is a shepherd living high in the mountains in the care of Chuto, an older shepherd. The story takes place in modern times, at least modern enough for a brief mention of a truck. Other than that one clue as to the time-setting of the story, the rest of the story easily could have taken place long ago, as Cusi is living just as the Andes shepherds have for centuries.
As the story unfolds, we learn more and more about his life (as he learns more about himself). This short (128 page) novel is a bit slow moving. It’s full of beautiful descriptions of mountains, valleys and llamas. But it wasn’t exactly a page-turner that kept us coming back to read it each night.
There’s a big “reveal” in the last couple chapters about Cusi’s identity and the future the lays ahead of him, as well as a beautiful relational scene between Chuto and Cusi. The last chapter almost made the rest of the book feel more worthwhile, but overall it wasn’t a favorite for us. I think had we already been studying Peru or Incan history, we might have appreciated it more. 🙂