ME: What's the most exciting or hair-raising experience you had while traveling to research your book?
J&P: It was a beautiful sunny day in Campeche, Mexico and we decided, on impulse, to try and find a remote site called Hormiguero. We soon discovered that the jungle had reclaimed the road, the remaining narrow track was bounded by trees on both sides and there was no way to turn around. It got very muddy, full of potholes and deep puddles, and we didn’t dare stop in case we got stuck. Then the sky began to darken and we knew that if the rains came, we’d be in serious trouble - no 4-wheel drive, no GPS, no cell phone signal and no one knew we were there. We learned a lot that day. The hard way. (But we made it to Hormiguero and it was spellbinding.)
ME: Sounds fun (and scary)! Why do you think ancient cultures such as the Mayan culture are so intriguing to us today?
J&P: We tend to think of progress as always moving forward, but it’s obvious that the human race has had a few relapses. So much knowledge was lost when Diego de Landa burned all the Maya books in 1549. It’s mind-boggling what the Maya achieved with no metal tools or wheels or telescopes – we all want to know how they did it. And who isn’t thrilled by tales of magnificent pyramids rising out of the untamed jungle? Throw in some secret passageways to explore and mysterious writings to decode, and what’s not to love?
ME: I know, makes me want to take a vacation right now! Are the Jaguar Stones based off of something that actually existed in ancient Mayan
culture or did you create them?
J&P: The Jaguar Stones are fictional; we invented them to embody some of the qualities that have sustained the Maya through the last three thousand years, such as agriculture, astronomy, creativity, military prowess, and kingship. The appearance of the Jaguar Stones was inspired by a poster we bought at Altun Ha in Belize, showing an amazing carved jade head of the Sun God. The actual artifact has always been kept under lock and key in its native land, so we saw it for the first time this year at ‘The Maya and the Mythic Sea’ exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.
ME: If you could ask an ancient Mayan king or queen one question, what would it be?
J&P: We’d ask them “What was in all those books that Diego de Landa took from you and burned?”
ME: Ooh, the librarian in me craves the answer to that! What do you hope kids will learn or enjoy the most from reading your book?
J&P: Mostly, we want them to have fun reading it, and we hope they won’t be able to put it down. It’s a real page-turner with lots of twists and turns, but it has plenty of funny moments too. Along the way, maybe they’ll learn that there’s a lot more to the ancient Maya than just human sacrifice, that there are still six million Maya living in Central America today, and that we all need to look after the rainforest before it’s too late.
ME: I'm sure kids will be sucked right into the adventures in this book! Thanks Jon and Pamela for visiting my blog and answering my questions!
Doesn't it just make you want to travel more?
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