La Malinche: The Princess Who Helped Cortés Conquer the Aztec Empire

By Francisco Serrano • Illustrated by Pablo Serrano
Groundwood Books • 2012 • 36 pages
Hardcover ($18.95)
ISBN: 978-1-55498-111-3
Ages 9-12

In story-like form, this non-fiction picture book reveals the real-life character of Aztec Princess Malinali—later christened Marina, and best known as La Malinche—and how she became involved in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire. Malinali, an indigenous woman, was presented to the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés as a slave, but her keen linguistic ability eventually led her to serve as Cortés’ devoted interpreter.

The books’ pages record Malinali’s journey alongside Cortés, and convey the events that led up to his meeting with Moctezuma, the ruler of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. What follows, of course, is the fall of the Aztec city and its surrounding domains, giving way to the birth of Mexico.

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While lengthy for a picture book, La Malinche delivers a compelling read and provides grounds for interesting discussion. Is, for example, Marina to be revered as a heroine, or considered a traitor of her people?  The end of the book includes a map, a chronology, a glossary, and suggestions for further reading on this pivotal portion of Mexico’s history.

Reviewed by Kacy Vega, Coordinator, Leaps and Bounds, Arizona State University