Award winning author, T.A. Barron teamed up with illustrator, William Low, to create an intriguing picture book that occurs in South America’s Patagonia region. The unexplainable occurrence of 890 painted hands and one left foot on the walls of a sheltered cave is the starting point for their story.
With no surviving members of the Tehuelche tribe, modern archaeologists struggle for an explanation for the colorful hands and a foot. T.A. spins his tale, Ghost Hands (Philomel Books, 2011) using the Cueva de las Manos– Cave of the Hands as the setting for the story.
Despite his father’s feeling that Auki, the main character, was not old enough for the challenge of hunting the puma, Auki sets off on his own hunting expedition. After encountering a puma, Auki falls into a secret cave where he encounters an old man. This man chronicles the tribe’s history by painting hands on the walls of the cave. Miraculously, Auki is able to save the mystical man from the ferocious puma by using his foot. Near the end of the story, a painted foot is added to the collection of hands that represent different aspects of the tribe’s existence.
This creative story combines fact with fiction and allows children to explore unexplained occurrences. It is a wonderful way to demonstrate how authors can find unique topics for stories.
William blends an assortment of muted colors to illustrate the rugged terrain of Patagonia.
- ancient cultures
- herdsmen vs. hunters
- causes for extinct cultures
- South American Indian tribes- Tehuelche
- coming of age
- geography- South America and Patagonia Region
- unsolved mysteries
- finding topics for stories
- fiction vs. nonfiction
Can you add any other picture books that focus on unsolved mysteries?
T. A. Barron says
Thank you for the marvelous review of Ghost Hands! As a fellow writer, you understand that the true magic in stories happens when what you have written is understood by someone else. Stories have no boundaries – the connect us across time, geography, gender, culture, and language. Now that is true magic! Reading your review, I could tell that you, like myself, were intrigued by the mystery of that ancient Patagonian cave painting. So you and I were lucky enough to join Auki on his adventure in Patagonia. Can’t think of better company. So … thanks for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! And I must tell you that I’m quite intrigued by your memoir, and look forward to reading that.
Sandra Bornstein says
T.A., Children are oftentimes fearful of the writing process. One of their main hurdles is trying to decide what to write about. Your book, GHOST HANDS, provides an excellent example of how a writer can effectively use a notable place as a setting for a story. The mysterious Patagonian cave painting is an amazing starting point for a story. After reading GHOST HANDS, I would like to visit Patagonia.