Title: The Ugly One
Author: Leanne Statland Ellis
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Amazon Vine
Genre: Childrens, Historical Fiction
Page Count: 256
Rating: [4/5 stars]
I had always been ugly, as far back as I could remember.
Micay has a deep scar that runs like a river from her right eye to her lip. The boys in her Incan village bully her because of it, and most of the adults ignore her. So she keeps to herself and tries to hide the scar with her long hair, drawing comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God, Inti. Then a stranger traveling from his jungle homeland to the Sacred Sun City at Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw, and the path of her life changes. Perhaps she isn’t destined to be the Ugly One forever. Vivid storytelling and rich details capture the life and landscape of the Incan Empire as seen through the eyes of a young girl who is an outsider among her own people. (summary from goodreads)
THE UGLY ONE is a children’s book, aimed at 9 years old and up, but I enjoyed it as an adult. It’s a beautifully written story of a young Incan girl finding her voice.
A horrid scar mars Micay’s face, making her the victim of the mean boys in the village. She’s incredibly self-conscious about the scar, and won’t allow her mother to kiss her goodnight because she doesn’t want her mother to feel bad about having an ugly daughter. She even calls herself “Ugly One.”
But when a yunka stranger gives her the gift of a baby macaw, Micay’s life slowly changes. At first, Sumac is almost as ugly as she is. But as he grows into a beautiful, proud bird, Micay herself grows. She gains confidence in herself, and her self-esteem improves. It’s a nicely told coming of age story, and I think adult readers will appreciate the way Micay tells her story, as an elder looking back at her younger years.
I know my younger self would have gobbled up this book, mainly because it’s set during the time of the Incas. The author works in Incan myths as well as their traditions and way of life. How authentic is the book? I don’t know. But hopefully THE UGLY ONE will spur interest in the Incas for younger readers.
Micay’s story is an inspiring one, especially as she gains self-esteem and realizes her scar isn’t the most important thing about her. But I think some readers might expect more action, and THE UGLY ONE meanders along slowly, unfolding almost like an Incan myth.
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