Auki’s name means “little hunter,” but he’s still anxiously awaiting the day when he’ll be allowed to join his father and the other villagers on their annual hunt.
“Wait another year,” his father tells him summer after summer. But Auki knows he’s ready. He decides to prove himself worthy of the hunt—and his name.
When Auki defies his father and sneaks out at dawn with spear in hand, he discovers something unexpected — a place he never knew existed. A place that teaches him more about his people — and himself — than a hunt ever could.
In this powerful story of courage and transformation, T. A. Barron and William Low imagine an answer to the mystery behind the Patagonian Cave of the Hands — and the lone footprint hidden there.
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“In the land of Patagonia, Argentina, a boy becomes a man by proving he is strong enough and brave enough to face the puma. Young Auki yearns to show his father he is worthy but his father says not yet. So in the year that he stands “as straight as a spear,” Auki slips away secretly to find the puma and face it down. Through the grasslands and the canyons Auki climbs seeking the perfect place to wait and watch. What he is about to discover will startle, frighten and then stretch the world beyond its recognizable boundaries as T.A.Barron leads us into the Cave of Hands…a mysterious place, infused with ghosts and colorful waving hands. Ghost hands. Can you feel them? Can you see them? What are they trying to tell you? Beware the puma, young Auki. On the walls of this magical cave, there are thousands of painted hands and just one foot — and that foot is the spark that leads us through an adventure of courage and offers us the opportunity to stop and honor the lives and souls of the thousands of people who walked through these same canyons armed with their hopes, their dreams and their bravery.
“This is the perfect book to take our children beyond their known walls and this is the perfect book to teach our children their connections to all who inhabit our world and the generations who came before them. Best of all, this is the perfect book to awaken our children’s dreams, imagination and most of all, the courage they will need on their own journey.”
“The ubiquity of the handprint in cave art around the world, and Patagonia in particular, begs unresolved questions about the image’s meaning; Barron’s invented back story posits that healers, warriors and others who contributed to the common good may have been thus memorialized.
“Adding to the intrigue in Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos is the appearance of a footprint. Combining suspense with coincidence to imagine what prompted this singularity, Barron offers this tale narrated by a son of the Tehuelche tribe. …Digitally rendered compositions teem with texture and depth. Light and shadow crisscross the cliffs, and loose strokes animate the players. In a dramatic double-page spread, the beast appears, fangs bared, facing the reader and the boy. While fleeing, the protagonist wounds his foot, stumbling upon the secret cave ‘visited only by elders…and…ghosts.’ A climactic scene pitting the savage animal against the aged cave painter portrays Auki’s foot as a weapon—one worthy of record.
As in Barron and Low’s previous collaboration, The Day the Stones Walked (2007), tightly connected visuals and text provoke curiosity and awe about a phenomenon at once mysterious and accessible.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“As in The Day the Stones Walked (2007), about Easter Island, Barron and Low offer an imagined explanation for a mysterious archaeological artifact, this time Cueva de las Manos in Patagonia. Auki, whose name means “Little Hunter,” is determined to prove his bravery and honor his name, so he sets off to track and kill a puma. Instead, he unwittingly happens upon a legendary secret cave, decorated with hundreds of handprints. There, he meets the cave painter and earns his own print—the only foot among the 890 hands—with an act of selfless bravery. Barron and Low take liberties with history, adding vivid jewel tones to the more limited, earth-toned palette in the actual Cave of the Hands, but in a foreword, the author offers some true facts about the cave. Low’s painterly digital images, with the appearance of pastel drawings, highlight the story’s drama with dynamic use of perspective and light. This story will spark interesting discussions about cultural appropriation and authenticity and may inspire children to embark on similarly creative flights of imagination.”
“In the mountains of South America is a cave called Cueva de las Manos, or Cave of the Hands, made by the Tehuelche tribe who lived in the Patagonian region for thousands of years. Nearly 900 separate hands are depicted on the surface of the rock, as well as the image of one foot. The author, spellbound by the mystery and wonder of the hands, but especially of the single foot, created this fictional account of how and why they might have been created. It is the story of Auki, whose name means, ‘little hunter,’ but who is deemed too young and inexperienced to accompany his father. Determined to prove his worth, he sets off early one morning to hunt a puma, but in a chance encounter with one, injures his foot in a fall. While crawling to safety, he discovers the Cave of the Hands, as well as the artist, who brusquely sends him away. Auki hobbles off, only to be pulled back by the painter’s shouts of alarm because the seemingly life-size puma has cornered him. Now is Auki’s real chance to prove his bravery.
“The stunning digitally enhanced illustrations, rich in color and texture, perfectly capture the terrain, action, and emotions in a realistic manner that helps readers imagine the time and place. Teachers can use this as a good example of how a story can be developed by imagining why or how something came to be and can mine the story for Barron’s abundant use of descriptive similes.”
— School Library Journal
“I’ve read it aloud to two different groups of kids for programs at the library and both have sat spellbound… parents as well. It’s got it all… drama… adventure… meaning…”
— Barb Langridge, Howard County Central Library