Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dia de los Muertos

In honor of Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos, here are two wonderful books focusing on The Day of the Dead.

The Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras
The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead
Luis San Vicente
Translation by John William Bird & Bobby Byrd
Originally published in Mexico in 1999, this edition 2002

El Festival de las Calaveras is a little book that holds a beautiful amount of information. The illustrations are both in color and black and white. I particularly love the chalk-like illustrations at the beginning and ending of the book, and especially the one with a skeleton man and his skeleton dog. The book is a sort of lovely poem that follows the skeletons on the Day of the Dead as they head to the cemetery, sing and dance and enjoy the offerings given to them. The illustrations, particularly the black and white skeletons, are breathtaking. The book includes a history of the Day of the Dead, information on celebrating this festive time - including building an altar -, and recipes for making Pan de Muerto and Sugar Skulls. There is a beautiful translation from an ancient Nahuatl poem at the end, and I love the inclusion of a small altar at the front and back of the book with a photograph in a frame. A great book to share with loved ones, especially children.

The Day of the Dead / El Dia De Los Muertos
A Bilingual Celebration
Bob Barner
Translated by Teresa Mlawer

Just as El Festival de las Calaveras does, The Day of the Dead also includes a sort of lyrical poem in both English and Spanish, but this one follows a family as they get ready to celebrate this tradition. The pages include dancing skeletons, flowers, colorful illustrations, music, and dancing. The family gathers the offerings and makes their way to the cemetery, and the skeletons are shown enjoying and dancing with them. The celebration ends with the family thinking of their loved ones, and leaving the cempazuchitl petals on their loved ones' graves. There are informational pages at the end describing the history and traditions of the Day of the Dead.

These books are so alike and yet so different. They are filled with all the beautiful aspects of this tradition, Calaveras de dulce, pan de muerto, marigolds, skeletons, and a rich source of information on the holiday. The illustrations are both so unique, and the lyrical writing inside the books tells similar stories but from different perspectives. These books would be great to use together and to read aloud, and especially to use on a unit on El Dia de los Muertos.

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