Treasure of the World

Putnam. Feb. 2021. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525516965.
Gr 5 Up–Twelve-year-old Ana lives on a mountain called Cerro Rico in Bolivia with her parents, brother, and Abuelita. They are descendants of the Incas who were enslaved to mine the mountain for gold hundreds of years ago. To the locals, Cerro Rico is called the “mountain that eats men.” Ana and her brother’s shared dream of escape through education comes to an abrupt end when their angry, abusive Papi decides that it is time for Daniel to become a man of the mines. Daniel, already frail with respiratory problems, becomes sick after two days. When Ana volunteers to take Daniel’s place so that Daniel can recover, Papi is unwilling, but the family needs the money. The other miners view Ana’s presence as a bad omen. When there is a cave-in several weeks later, Ana is blamed instead of the poor working conditions. Her Papi was killed in the disaster and Daniel is missing, presumed dead. Ana will not accept that Daniel has died and enters the mine alone one night to search for him, thus endangering her own life. The arduous life of mining families is vividly drawn. Their existence is bleak, with long hours worked in dangerous conditions for little pay. Historical context is provided via memorable, often intense conversations between characters. Readers will be drawn immediately to Ana’s voice and her resilience.
VERDICT This utterly riveting first purchase offers a view of complex family dynamics and child labor that is shocking and powerful.

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