From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7-- Culca longs to dive like her brother Tulone, but girls on her native island take care of the men. The divers are essential to the survival of the village as the pearls and shells they gather are used for trading. All is not well, however, as Spanish conquistadors want only gold from the New World. When ships full of it sink in a storm, the divers are taken to recover the treasure, and Culca uses her nimble wits and unflagging bravery to save her brother's life. Female roles and Spanish colonial exploitation of land and people are the themes of this brief account. The dual role of the church is shown through the contrast of a humble, sincere friar and the ostentatious church of the bishop. Character development is limited and flat except for Culca and the friar. When she takes on the powerful church and government of Colonial Spain, realism slides away. However, the simple plot and dialogue will hold readers' interest. Chief recommendations for the book are a simple vocabulary and sentence structure, single plot line, and nondidactic tone. Culca comes through as a strong female voice; issues are presented but are not belabored. Useful for younger or less capable readers, this might provide an opening for discussion of the Spanish in the New World. RealisRealistic black-and-white drawings appear in every chapter. --Gail Richmond, Point Loma High School, San Diego
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Strasser notes that history records the first use of diving bells by 16th-century Caribbeans trying to salvage treasure from sunken Spanish ships; in this novel, unfortunately, he stretches credulity in suggesting how. On an island paradise off the Yucatan Peninsula, young Culca stubbornly insists that she wants to be a pearl diver like her brother Tulone, though diving is traditionally men's work. She falls in with a friar who teaches her Spanish, religion, and mathematics, then finds Leonardo's sketch of a diving bell in one of his books. On a visit to the mainland, Culca sees a big bell outside the cathedral. After Tulone and others are kidnapped by the Spanish to recover gold from a galleon sunk in deep water, she persuades the bishop and governor to try her Leonardo- inspired idea of using the bell to save her brother. The author plays up both Culca's independence and Spanish treachery; though a kind sailor helps Culca and her brother escape, the conquerors are seen mostly as relentlessly greedy and cruel--even the friar dies from their abuse. In the end, Culca gets her wish, since her village has been decimated and needs divers: a wan triumph. A contrived but topical story, with an intriguing picture of several native cultures in transition. (Fiction. 11-13) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.