By The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Fascinated by the bones, skulls, and artifacts they uncovered in the Andean foothills in late nineteenth century Peru, young Julio Tello (nicknamed Sharuko for his bravery) revived that interest in his college and adult years, leading him to combine his medical degree with his anthropological interest in his indigenous ancestors to become Peru’s acclaimed archaeologist. Brown’s Spanish/English picture book not only describes his notable finds at several sites throughout the early 1900s but even more importantly discusses how his work upended contemporary thought on Peruvian history, pushing the history of its civilization thousands of years back, and refocusing away from Spanish Conquest and onto vibrant, advanced indigenous populations. The bilingual text (with Spanish given primacy in each spread), together with Brown’s sources and endnotes stressing the radical significance of Tello’s work, is an excellent springboard for starting discussions among cross-cultural groups of readers and listeners and an ideal vehicle for social studies educators to introduce concepts in historiography. Chavarri’s vividly hued watercolor and gouache paintings frequently incorporate motifs of objects discovered in Tello’s explorations. This compact bio of a premier archaeologist whose “discoveries came from the unique perspective of someone studying his own ancestors” is a strong recommendation to rebalance collections top-heavy with Egyptian and Middle Eastern materials.