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Maya Civilisation Topic


Maya Topic Booklist

The Maya civilisation topic offers a wealth of interesting history to explore – from impressive pyramids and cities to complex calendars and a rich cultural heritage still prevalent in Central America today. We’ve picked out some of the best books about the Maya suitable for primary school children looking to explore the topic.

David Wisniewski

A quality picture book with high visual appeal, with the bold and colourful illustrations that are made using the cut-paper technique. The story of Rain Player centres on a boy who is challenged to save his people from drought by defeating the Rain god at a Maya ball game.

Linda Lowery
 & Janice Lee Porter
Chapter book

This is a popular choice of a story based on Maya folktale for KS2, and is useful as an enjoyable basis for exploring Maya folklore rather than for looking at historical details with accuracy. It tells the tale of the Maya king who brings his people the gift of a chocolate tree, much to the displeasure of his brother, Night Jaguar, who plots to rid the people of this special treat and keep it for the gods. The Chocolate Tree has a high appeal to lower KS2 because of its accessible text, fun premise and bold illustrations.

Dan Jolley
 & David Witt
Graphic Novel

The Hero Twins: Against the Lords of Death is a graphic novel with a high level of appeal to children in upper KS2. Follow the tale of the hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, whose special skills at the Maya ball game Po-ta-Pok cause upset to the rulers of the land of the dead. The illustrations and added text are full of extra details that will keep pupils interested in the Ancient Maya topic.

Lynne Cherry

The Ancient Maya believed that the Kapok tree was sacred. Although this story does not directly mention the Maya, it centres around the fate of a Kapok tree in the Amazon rainforest and for this reason many teachers use this popular text alongside their Maya topic. This is a colourful and engaging picture book that captures the spirit of the rainforest through its beautifully detailed illustrations. It has a simple story line that is accessible to less confident readers but a strong message about deforestation and enough depth to captivate older readers too. Check out the accompanying unit of work from KS2History.

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