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The Sad Night


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About the Author

Sally Schofer Mathews received a master's degree in art education from the University of South Florida. She did her master's degree study in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and returned there to begin work on The Sad Night, her first book for Clarion.


Gr 3-6-This sensitive treatment of La Noche Triste, or The Sad Night, the last battle the Aztecs won against the Spaniards, is a highly effective melding of graceful, lucid text and stylized art. Designed to resemble Aztec codices (most of which were destroyed by the Spaniards), the illustrations appear in double-page strips above the bordered text. Beginning with the Aztec migration to Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City), the history of this people is traced through their final conquest by Cortés's forces. Though the figures in the paintings are small, the action is clearly discernible. Indeed, children can ``read'' the story from these expressive illustrations. The final three pages of the book give more detailed information on the Aztecs and Cortés, including an explanation of the Aztec calendar. Similar in narrative and illustrative style to Deborah Nourse Lattimore's Why There Is No Arguing in Heaven (1989) and The Flame of Peace (1987, both HarperCollins), this title has the distinction of combining myth with historical fact in a particularly successful manner. An engaging introduction to Mexican history.-Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA

Expertly weaving dialogue into her absorbing account, Mathews chronicles the fateful encounter that paved the way for the Spaniards' conquest of Mexico more than 400 years ago. As she sets the stage, Mathews explains how the Aztecs, under Moctezuma, vanquished other tribes to establish an expansive empire based on the island of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. When Spanish soldiers entered the city in 1519, Moctezuma mistook their leader, Hernan Cortes, for a god and offered him gold and jewels. The arrival of a second fleet of Spanish ships led to the battle that took place on ``The Sad Night''; Moctezuma was killed and the Spaniards, attempting to escape with a cache of gold, were chased and defeated by the Aztecs. Mathews neatly distills the intricate details of this skirmish, observing that there were many casualties on both sides, and that the victors ``did not know that this was the last battle they would win.'' Inspired by the few Aztec codices that survived the Spanish conquest, Mathews's dynamic ink and electric-hued watercolor art plays a strong role in the telling of this intriguing story. Endnotes succinctly encapsulate the rise and fall of the Aztec empire, and a brief discussion of Aztec symbols and calendars includes striking examples. Ages 6-9. (Apr.)

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