HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Corn Grows Ripe
Author: Dorothy Rhoads
Illustrator: Jean Charlot
Publisher: Puffin Books, republished 1993
ISBN-13: 978-0780720619 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 078072061X Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0140363135 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0140363130 Paperback
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Rhoads, Dorothy. The Corn Grows Ripe (Published in 1956 by The Viking Press; republished in 1993 by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Books USA Inc., a division of the Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Twelve year old Dionisio Ku, nicknamed Tigre (meaning jaguar) is a Mayan Indian boy who lives with his Father and Mother, Mamich or Great Grandmother, five year old sister Concha, and their dog and cat, in a small village in Yucatan, Mexico. Three older brothers have died from fever, all within a week. The family lives, as does everyone else in the village, by raising corn in fields known as milpas which have been carved out of the heavy forest by cutting, clearing, and burning. At the beginning of the book, Tigre is somewhat lazy and spoiled by his parents. He has never done a man’s work before. However, one day Tigre’s father is badly injured in an accident when his leg is broken while clearing the field for the year’s corn crop. The family wonders who will plant and harvest the corn that they need.
Can Tigre find the strength and courage to take his father’s place and support his family? Does he survive all the hard work? And what will they do when the drought comes? With its appropriate drawings, this 1957 Newbery Honor Book gives a brief but good introduction to the Mayan culture of Meso-America. It is a quick and reasonably pleasant read that includes elements of Mayan religion and daily life. The author, Dorothy Rhoads, strikes a perfect balance between imparting information and telling a good story. Plot-wise, the book is a typical coming of age tale. In addition to the historical benefit, it is good to see that Tigre learns some responsibility to become more mature and successful, showing that an ordinary child who is faced with a seemingly impossible challenge overcomes with perseverance.
There is a small subplot where Tigre learns more about the world around him through studies with a caring teacher. The curious blend of both Christian and Mayan religious traditions, praying to God in church while still offering animal sacrifices to the old gods, is probably authentic from a cultural standpoint, but parents may want to plan on discussing it, though it could be a great springboard for a consideration of other religious beliefs. One reader reviewer complained that the “Author tries to use Spanish vocabulary, but clearly does not speak the language. Tigre is tiger, not jaguar.” However, the glossary of Spanish, Mayan, and Mexican words in the back notes, “Sp., literally, tiger; in Yucatan and Central America the word is used to mean ‘jaguar.’”