illustrator: Yuyi Morales
Roaring Brook Press, 2008
Just in case young readers may have forgotten from Morales’ earlier book, Just a Minute: Señor Calavera, the dapper-yet-befuddled, bicycle-riding Mr. Death—who couldn’t quite figure out whether or not the elderly Grandma Beetle was really his friend—has indeed been invited to her birthday party.
The day has arrived, and now his friend Zelmiro the Ghost reminds Señor Calavera to get Grandma Beetle a present. His advice: “The best present to give a friend is the thing she would love the most.” As Señor Calavera frantically searches through the Spanish alphabet and collects gifts—un Acordéon (“an accordion for her to dance to”), Bigotes (“a mustache because she had none”), un Chiflido (“a whistle he trapped in a bag”)—Zelmiro counsels his friend to look again, “just in case…”
As with Just a Minute, Pura Belpré Award-winner Morales’ luminous jewel-toned spreads, in acrylics and mixed media on paper, are filled with action and perfectly capture both the whimsy of the Mexican cultural icons and the rollicking humor in the story. Here is “una Historieta, a one-of-a-kind comic book” that contains a scene from Just a Minute. Here are “Quince años, fifteen more years of life,” illustrated by a lovely quinceanera on a cake. Here are “Cosquillas, tickles to make her laugh”—in a brightly decorated box.
But when Señor Calavera loses control of his bicycle (on the hill where Zelmiro had been buried and where he is now planting flowers) and all the presents are ruined, he quickly has to figure out what Grandma Beetle really would love the most. “Perhaps? Maybe? ¡Quizás!” Of course!
Youngest listeners and readers will appreciate the predictable-for-some, surprising-for-others, and totally heartwarming ending. They will want to hear Just in Case, which complements the celebrations of el Día de los Muertos, over and over. Yuyi Morales is a treasure, and Just in Case is highly recommended.