cover image Ancient Night

Ancient Night

David Álvarez with David Bowles. Levine Querido, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-64614-251-4

In this twined variation of several Mesoamerican stories, the earth’s firmament is lit every evening thanks to Rabbit, who climbs down the Great Ceiba’s trunk and treks across the “sea-ringed world” to gather aguamiel, the “precious, glowing nectar... of the first and holy maguey.” Rabbit then pours the gleaming liquid into the moon, portrayed as a double-handled gourd. But when crafty Opossum cracks the moon and steals the aguamiel for himself, the orb loses its radiance, and the now-regretful animal must find a way to illuminate the world. Having been caught out by Rabbit, Opossum makes a trek of his own: “searching for that fire/ prepared by mighty gods/ as a gift for future humans/ who might shiver in the dark.” Bowles’s unhurried lines offer a playfully elegant feel to the telling, while Álvarez’s saturated digitized paintings use a limited palette to imagine long-eared, gray Rabbit and pointy-nosed, rust-hued Opossum against luminous leafy landscapes. Together, the collaborators create a dreamlike story variation that truly shines. An authors’ note details the story’s roots. English and Spanish versions publish simultaneously. Ages 4–8. Agent: (for Álvarez) Janet Soto Centeno and Susana Figueroa, Fondo de Cultura Económica. (Mar.)