A little boy, Kusikiy, on the island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca Peru has a concern. “I am worried the birds are not singing and the trees are sad” because it has not rained. The rainy season starts when the Llama Constellation travels above Taquile Island so Kusikiy endeavors to find a way to help the Llama Constellation find its way back to Taquile’s sky.
Kusikiy A Child from Taquile, Peru by author and illustrator Mercedes Cecilia weaves together a story about living in harmony with the environment as well as family: the island “is so quiet you can hear potatoes grow under the earth and the voices of mothers whispering Quechua* songs to the babies they carry on their backs.” The synergy between the island’s inhabitants and the environment—from the animals to the stars—animates every page of the book. “Mothers know the secrets of the waters and the kindness of the Sun.”
Kusikiy introduces readers to a new culture, through a playful story and vibrant illustrations. Through knowledge of a new culture, children begin to conceptualize the world in different ways. Instead of standard stories picturing Mom in the kitchen or Dad arriving home from work, Kusikiy’s great-grandfather is the Keeper of Wisdom and Peace on the island and his mother a weaver. The book unfolds in a traditional storybook manner with plenty to capture children’s imaginations: Kuisikiy flies on the wings of a condor to make an offering of quinoa and potatoes to APU, the Spirit of the Great Glacier, to ask for rain.
The end of the book is full of interesting tidbits to share with your kids about many of the concepts presented in the book. “In the community of Taquile, oral tradition, working together, and ritual are the ways to transmit wisdom.” We also learn how the Yacana, the Quechua word for the Llama Constellation, is one of the most important groups of stars to the people of the highlands of Peru. The eyes of the llama are the brightest stars in the constellations of Orion.
* The Andean mountains, where these stories take place, are home to many traditional cultures, including the Quechua, whose language is also Quechua. The number of Quechua speakers in Peru is estimated at four and a half million, approximately 19 percent of the total Peruvian population (with more found in Ecuador, Bolivia and other parts of South America). Some regions, like the one included in Kusikiy, are predominantly Quechua-speaking.
Looking for more good children’s books on Peru? Another great Peruvian story, which we love because it comes in both Spanish or English is Up and Down the Andes (Spanish translation: Sube y Baja por los Andes) by Laurie Krebs (published by the fantastic multicultural kids book publisher Barefoot Books). The lyrical book features another Andean Peruvian festival the Inti Raymi, the Inca New Year.