Throughout history, humans have felt an inherent need to understand everything around them. What we can’t explain with science, we fill in with stories, religion, or both. In modern times, we now have science to fill in a large number of the knowledge gaps that were previously unknown to us. However, in ancient history, for the most part what we had were stories to be passed on from generation to generation. Maya; Gods and Monsters tells some of these stories.

Alfonso Huerta’s vivid illustrations match up to Carol Karasik’s retelling of stories in a much-needed way to help readers visualize the characters in the story. It’s hard to imagine a man with a mirror for a foot, or a crocodile-toad Earth Monster.

“Everywhere he goes, the Plumed Serpent is honored as the guardian of water. He is also the living cord that connects the earth and the Underworld.”

At first it seems that some of the stories are choppy and jump from place to place, but that’s not for lack of writing talent. Some of these stories are so old that there are small pieces missing here and there. Although all stories spread by word of mouth are altered over time, readers can tell that Karasik does her best not to alter them too much herself. Maya: Gods and Monsters helps explain the Mayan peoples’ thought processes, as well as sheds light to their history in the back of the book.