Festival of Bones/ El Festival de las Calaveras (The Little Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead)

author: Luis San Vicente
illustrator: Luis San Vicente
translators: John William Byrd and Bobby Byrd
Cinco Puntos, 2002
all grades 
Mexica, Mexican

Executed in ink and watercolor on what appears to be scratchboard, here are page after page of joyous skeletons doing what joyous skeletons do at the time of year known as El Día de los Muertos, when they get to climb out of their cramped little graves and party with each other and with their living relatives.

Here’s a duded-up skeleton, his sombrero at his side, playing a guitar. Here’s a skeleton in a top hat, happily riding a bicycle over the local cemetery. Here’s another one, flying on an airplane made of newspaper; and another one, skating. Here’s a dancing skeleton couple, and here’s a lady skeleton in a fancy bonnet, in a stagecoach drawn by two skeleton horses. She is pursuing her beloved skeleton boyfriend, who is trying to escape her marriage proposal.

No explanatory material is necessary, but there’s plenty of that as well, including recipes for pan de muerto and sugar skulls—enough for any teacher in the US who feels the need.

This absolutely hilarious little book, in Spanish and English, will appeal to anyone of any age who likes to laugh. And, after all, isn’t that what this holiday is all about? Highly recommended. 

—Beverly Slapin
(published 4/7/13)

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