The Secret of the Andes

by Ann Nolan Clark

Other authorsJean Charlot (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1952



Local notes

PB Cla


Viking Juvenile (1952), Edition: First Edition, 120 pages


An Indian boy who tends llamas in a hidden valley in Peru learns the traditions and secrets of his Inca ancestors.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

120 p.; 9.58 inches


0670629758 / 9780670629756



User reviews

LibraryThing member JGolomb
I'm a bit of an Inca-phile...having consumed many books on Incan history, their lives, and their ultimate demise following the Spanish Conquest in the early 16th Century.

And so I bought Secret of the Andes for my daughter...thinking that the Newberry Award winner would be a terrific way for me to share my interests with my avid reader. The book sat on her shelf for about a year. I moved it to my shelf for about another 6 months. And finally picked it up a couple of days ago.

If you have any interest in the Incas, the Conquest Era, or Indigenous peoples, then you'll respect this book's tale of a young Inca boy named Cusi. Cusi's story is one of awareness, discovery and maturation.
Cusi lives in a Hidden Valley in the Peruvian Andes. While tending to his small herd of Llama's (with his most favorite, Misti), he discovers a family living on the other side of a mountain. This sparks Cusi's internal and external adventure to discover his own history, his own past, and his real family.

Along the way, Cusi learns, in broad strokes, Incan origin and religious myths, and the impact on their cultural heritage of Spanish conquest.

The book is deep and spiritual. There's not a lot of fighting Conquistadors, no bloody battles on the pampas or in the mountains, and only a small bit of lost incan gold. Ann Nolan's writing is crisp, the dialogue is short, and should be very readable for ages 12+.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Secret of the Andes is a quiet story of an Inca boy growing up in the mountains of Peru, raising llamas. This boy, Cusi, knows little of his past, and has no home other than the mountains, no family outside his elderly mentor and his llamas. Time passes and Cusi knows he must leave the mountain, leave his llamas, leave his mentor, and go to the city to seek out his heart’s desire. Will he find this heart’s desire? And, if he does, will it be what he thought it would be? A wonderful little story of the seeking and finding of simple happiness in a big world.… (more)
LibraryThing member JanaRose1
Secret of the Andes is the story of Cusi, a young Incan boy who lives in a remote valley in the Andes. He has been raised and taught by Chuto in the traditional Inca manner to herd llamas. Set four hundred years after the Spanish conquest, Cusi is one of the few remaining of royal Inca blood. As Cusi grows, he discovers an Indian family living in the valley over. By watching them, he realizes his desire for a family of his own. Eventually, he leaves Chuto to find a family, only to discover that he already had what he wanted all along. The plotline moved a bit slowly and tended to be repetitious. Consequently, I believe it would be hard for a child to maintain interest throughout the entire book.… (more)
LibraryThing member nmhale
This Newbery winner was a drier read than some of my earlier choices, a story more focused on its theme and setting than on thrills. Which means that I wasn't very excited to get back to it, but could still recognize the quality of the story telling. Cusi is a young Incan, living in the upper reaches of the Andes and working on a llama farm. His unassuming present hides a complex past, one that he is on the threshold of discovering. We witness his growth and evolution as he learns the mysteries of his people's past, and see from the inside what it is like to live as the conquered in a conquered land, but never conquered in spirit. It is a quiet story that I appreciated, as much for its revelation of a people and place that are unfamiliar to me, as for the gradual maturation of Cusi and his sweet relationships with those in his life. A well written and informative story, a slice of life in a place that I don't usually visit. I recommend it, keeping in mind that it is a quiet and slow story about growing up.… (more)
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This Newberry award winner gives the reader a glimpse into the surviving Inca culture with some thrilling scenes and a secret at the end. I loved the relationship of Cusi with his llama, Mitsi. Ms. Clark described llama behavior much like I think of them - though I have absolutely no real life experience with them!
LibraryThing member fingerpost
Ten or twenty pages into this book, I thought, "This is not grabbing me. I don't think I'm going to like it." But, since it was a Newbery winner, I kept plugging along. It never got better. This is one of the losers in the Newbery list. 1952 must have been a horrible year for children's literature if this was considered the best.
Cusi is an Incan boy who lives an isolated life on a mountaintop meadow with a herd of llamas and an old man who is his mentor. It is clear to the reader, though not to Cusi, that he is heir to some sort of Incan honor, and almost the entire book is spent with his incessant wondering why things happen to him. Why this? Why that? On and on and on. Towards the end, he makes a trip to the holy city of Cuzco, where not much happens, except that like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, he decides there's no place like home and he will return to the mountain top meadow home and his mentor. In the last couple of pages we also learn rather absurdly, that they are also up there keeping a vast treasure of gold hidden away from everyone in the world.
There. I've saved you the trouble of reading this book. You're welcome. For such a short little book (120 pages) it seemed to go on forever.
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LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Not the book for every child, but perhaps best appreciated by a thoughtful, gifted reader who appreciates a quiet story. This story about leaving home to find home incorporates Inca culture and magical realism.
LibraryThing member klburnside
Secret of the Andes is the story of an Incan boy, Cusi, and his caregiver and mentor, Chuto, who live in the mountains of Peru and herd llamas. They live a very isolated life, and as Cusi grows older he begins to realize there is more to the world than his limited experience. Chuto also hints, quite enigmatically, that Cusi is destined for greater things. They are visited by strange travelers who teach Cusi many things, and eventually Cusi sets out on a solo journey to "seek his heart's desire."

The author of this book taught on a Native American reservation in New Mexico from 1920-1955, and also travelled extensively through Latin America. She wrote many children's books about Native Americans, both North and South. I think the author was trying to do something valuable with this book, expose children to a culture that was on this continent before Europeans arrived, and that still tries to persist. In my present day adult world view, the book seemed to gloss over the surface of the evils of colonization and also romanticize Incan culture. However, I guess in 1952, just admitting that Incan culture existed and was in many ways good is what needed to happen. Who knows. Many of the early Newbery winners take place in foreign countries, which I find fascinating.

Also, the kid chews a lot of coca leaves in this book.

The book itself was quite boring, and I found the language too flowery. At times Chuto was frustratingly aloof with Cusi, refusing to explain things to him or answer his questions because it wasn't time. It reminded me a little bit of how Dumbledore ignores Harry in book 5, except that Chuto is no Dumbledore, and in the end it remains frustrating that Chuto won't explain anything to Cusi.

Apparently this book is most famous for beating out Charlotte's Web and winning the 1953 Newbery.
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LibraryThing member empress8411
I don't know much about the Inca's, other then a cursory mention in school. That lent to my interest in this story. Cusi has grown up in the traditional Incan way, despite living in the modern world. He knows nothing of electricity running water, cards. His journey, into the modern world, into his past and into his future, help him understand who he is and what it means to be Ican, what is means to hold to a dying culture and what it means he has to give up to do so.… (more)






(73 ratings; 3.5)
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