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Six Books in French to Travel in Time to Maya Civilisation

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We’ve all heard of the Eldorado, of the cities of gold and the lost pyramids of Guatemala. These myths drove thousands of explorers and adventurers to America.

How many us dreamt of following their footsteps by becoming archaeologists? I was a mythology and history nerd growing up. I longed for adventures where I solved riddles that would open mysterious temples. Watching the Indiana Jones movies didn’t help. You know what also didn’t help? My mother. She had this fantastic idea of feeding me with any book she could find related to the topics I enjoyed. She caught me once watching a Franco-Japanese animated series called “Les mystérieuses cités d'Or”, (The Mysterious Cities of Gold). This event marked the beginning of a great collection of books about the Maya people. It also started an inextinguishable thirst for knowledge.

Of course, any wannabe archaeologist will also need to master at least two languages. Although Latin or Proto-Mayan would be classy on a CV, French might have a better future. Thus, I’m very pleased to share some of my favourite engaging and educational French books for children about that iconic Mesoamerican civilisation: the Maya.

Les Mystérieuses Cités d'or ; La Première Cité t.1

The Mysterious Cities of Gold is the story of a young Spanish boy, Esteban, in 16th century Barcelona. He joins a conquistador expedition in search of El Dorado and the Mysterious Cities of Gold. In his adventures, he will meet Zia, the daughter of an Incan priest, and Tao, the last descendant of the Mu Empire. Their journey will bring them through the Inca and Maya territory. They will discover the way of life, beliefs and architecture of these civilisations. They will also learn the greed and cruelty of the Spanish Conquistadores.

At the end of every volume, the Bonus pages highlight the historical and geographical facts behind the fiction.

This is excellent series to spark a child’s interest before diving into more educational books. If your child isn’t fluent in French yet, reading comics is always a good start. The short sentences, supported by numerous images, allow him to understand the intrigue without an adult's help.

Melipona la princesse Maya

Melipona is based upon a legend that still thrives in the Maya culture.

It is the story of a young princess, reigning over a peaceful Maya kingdom. Followed by her pet jaguar (yes, prepare to be asked to adopt a jaguar!) and her best friend, she goes on a journey of initiation in the forest. She learns the beauty of living in harmony with Nature. In her adventure, our heroine is chosen by the sacred bees, which are considered by Maya to be the messengers of the God of Life.

This beautiful comic book is again a good introduction to the Maya civilisation. It also raises awareness about the importance of bees, with a four pages supplement at the end. The writing style is more sophisticated than Les mystérieuses cités d’Or, though still accessible for a 5th grader.

La Cabane Magique tome 48 ; En vacances chez les Mayas

La cabane magique is a collection of children’s books that follow the adventures of Léa and Tom. In this installment, they are offered dream holidays in Mexico. But their plans of snorkeling and sightseeing come to an end when they meet a dangerous shark. Luckily, they escape and land on a strange island without any sign of modern civilisation. Instead of resorts and cruise ships, they meet dancers with makeup and tattoos. They follow them into Maya times.

Once again, behind the appealing fiction lie real facts. They are written in a straightforward language, perfect for a 10-year old non-native French speaker. 

Les Mayas

This book is purely educational. It will take your child through all the wonders of the Maya civilisation. The book also offers an introduction to their religion and shows their advances in mathematics and astronomy.

It could be a little bit easy for your 10 to 11-year-old, but if they aren’t fluent in French, it will be perfectly suitable. This work offers engaging illustrations and fun games that will bring your child to live and love history.

Mayas, Aztèques, Incas

This volume is a real encyclopedia on pre-Columbian civilisations. It is complete and richly illustrated, which makes it an excellent reference book. Not only does it examine the history and customs of Mesoamerican people, but it also covers the conquest of the New World by the Conquistadores. The myths and legends also have pride of place.

This book is ideally suited for children from 9 to 12 years old. It explains with an accessible language a complex and fascinating history. It is not the kind of book that you devour, but rather one to savour, slowly, with tiny bites.

Les Peuples du soleil

My all-time favourite. Les peuples du Soleil is a beautiful book enriched with pictures of monuments, jewels and other archaeological items. It studies all the different American peoples of the pre-Columbian era through topics such as religion, art, agriculture, food and war. We learn about their lives and understand better the rise and fall of these civilisations.

Not only is it a good book for children, but any adult will enjoy browsing it as well.

This work is part of the collection Les Yeux de la Découverte. If your child is gifted with an innate curiosity, you can offer them the whole collection in a heartbeat. You can’t go wrong with these. 


Alexandra is a book addict with a particular fondness for History, Mythology and Art books. She started her career working for feminine online media and works now on Digital Marketing.

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