Mi Familia Calaca / My Skeleton Family

author: Cynthia Weill 
artist: Jesús Canseco Zárate
Cinco Puntos Press, 2013 

Except for what’s visually obvious, the close-knit familia Calaca is your typical extended family next door. Here, big sister Anita introduces her bratty brother, Miguel (“Él es muy travieso”), her cute baby brother, Juanito (“¡Él es tan lindo!”); her “hermosa mamá” and “guapo papá”; her abuelitos, who are “los mejores,” her bisabuela, who “tells wonderful stories,” and, of course, her pets (“son mis mejores amigos”).

All of traditional Oaxacan artist Canseco Zárate’s papier-máché (cartonería) skeleton family members, posed singly and in groups and photographed against bright pastel-colored backgrounds, have that wide, friendly smile that only skeletons can have. As well, his ‘50s and ‘60s fashion details perfectly frame what they have left for bodies. June Cleaver-like mom, in full skull makeup and high heels, sports a polka dot-print shirtwaist and a double strand of pearls. Office worker dad, in horn-rimmed eyeglasses, wears pencils in the breast pocket of his button-down shirt. Sister Anita is stylish in a flower-print dress and black patent leather Mary Janes. Abuelo wears a felt hat to keep his skull warm. Abuela’s fashionably blue eyeglasses frame her mascara-tipped eyeholes. Freckled Miguel’s bony knees stick out of his blue shorts. Baby Juanito, in a stroller, wears a cute blue onesie and has a neat little topknot on his skull. Gray-haired bisabuela, whose dress is accented with a lace collar, uses a walker. And the pets, of course, are fashionably decked out as well.

Each double-page spread, connected by the particular background color, mostly features a waving family member or hand-holding group on one side and English-over-Spanish text on the other; and Weil’s spare, whimsical text both balances and frames Canseco Zárate’s lively artwork. Mi Familia Calaca / My Skeleton Family is great fun for the youngest children—both hablantes and English speakers—and can lend itself to a plethora of art projects during celebrations of El Día de los Muertos, and any other time as well. Highly recommended.

—Beverly Slapin
(published 1/12/16)

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome all thoughtful comments. We will not accept racist, sexist, or otherwise mean-spirited posts. Thank you.