I had always been ugly, as far back as I could remember. . . .
Micay has a deep scar that runs like a river from her right eye to her lip. The boys in her Incan village bully her because of it, and most of the adults ignore her. So she keeps to herself and tries to hide the scar with her long hair, drawing comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God, Inti. Then a stranger traveling from his jungle homeland to the Sacred Sun City at Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw, and the path of her life changes. Perhaps she isn’t destined to be the Ugly One forever.


© 2012-2016 LEANNE STATLAND ELLIS. All rights reserved. Site design Donna Farrell

“Micay's intimate narration weaves in Quechua vocabulary and abundant references to Incan folklore, enhancing the novel's vivid sense of time and place. . . . her transformation is subtle and pragmatic as she evolves from fearful outsider to empowered individual.” —Publishers Weekly

"The Incan empire's four-century ascendance has inspired plenty of nonfiction and over-the-top fantasy but perplexingly little historical fiction for kids. This recommended title can help fill that void."—Kirkus

A gripping story of a girl who transform from a cowed outcast into a confident leader, this will find an audience among tweens and teens beginning to question what fate has in store for them. —JH, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 

"...this quiet, deeply moving story reminds readers of the true nature of beauty."— Frances Bradburn, Booklist
Now Available in Paperback!

The Ugly One

Clarion Books

ISBN-10: 0547640234
ISBN-13: 978-0547640235
Authors Note

     I have always loved traveling, and I’d visited many places around the world, but I had never been to South America before. Peru, with its lush rainforest and mountainous hiking trails, called to me. My agenda was simply to explore and experience a country very different from my own. One highlight of the trip was having a scarlet macaw land right on my head at a nature reserve in the rainforest. Another was visiting Machu Picchu, a magical, ancient city built high in the mountains. I wandered the maze-like passages of the ruins and imagined what it might have been like to walk there when it was a thriving, alive place. When I returned home, all sorts of unique souvenirs came back with me: beautiful sweaters woven from alpaca wool, antara flutes, small rocks and pottery shards I had collected as I hiked through the Andes Mountains, and, of course, many lovely pictures and memories. What I didn’t know was that something else came back with me, too. A story.

    I was trying to finish a novel that I had been working on before my time in Peru. One day, I opened my notebook to jot down a few ideas, and suddenly the sentence I had always been ugly, as far back as I could remember was staring up at me from the previously empty page. Where in the world had these words come from? Who was saying them? I tried to ignore this unexpected character, but she was insistent. I drew a picture of her, and there she was, one side of her face hidden by a macaw that perched on her shoulder. Her uncovered eye stared at me hauntingly. I knew I had to write her story.

    I returned to Peru a few years later to research the Incan culture in more detail. Along the Incan trail, I interviewed a modern-day shaman for many hours late into the night as we sipped coca tea by the firelight, surrounded by the towering Andes Mountains. He shared the white corn myth with me that night, a story that became part of this book. I visited Machu Picchu again and imagined it coming back to life. We call it Machu Picchu now because that is the name of the mountain upon which the city is built, but I wondered what the city had been called by the Incans of long ago. I chose the name Sacred Sun City, but to this day we don’t know the true name or purpose of this mysterious place. I stayed well past sunset, gazing up at the sky. The stars were nothing like the faint, distant lights I had seen all my life. At that high altitude, they were more like close friends twinkling in the dark space created by the mountains that soared upward in a hushed quiet. It was clear that the people who built this place were deeply connected to the rocks, the sky, and the gods they believed dwelled within it all. Every stone was placed with great care. One towering, expertly carved rock was shaped like the mountain behind it, the Black One. There was no denying the power it commanded in this special, now silent city. It became the Sacred Rock of this book.

    In the years that followed, I slowly finished the book, writing and rewriting, trying to remain true to what I had learned of the Inca people as I wove Micay’s story into the fabric of their rich culture and spirit. I hope I have done the Incans justice, and that Micay is pleased that her story has finally been told.
Explore More:
Inca and Machu Picchu Resources from the Web HERE!Learn_More_about_Machu_Picchu.htmlshapeimage_17_link_0
Download Discussion Questions HERE.
ILLINOIS READS selection for 2015 info HERE
Buy the book: