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Festival of Bones / El Festival de las…

Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book… (edition 2002)

by Luis San Vicente

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527225,591 (3.7)1
Title:Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead
Authors:Luis San Vicente
Info:Cinco Puntos Press (2002), Edition: Bilingual, Hardcover, 32 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Picture Book, Children's Nonfiction

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Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead by Luis San Vicente



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This charming little book features the poetry and illustrations of Luis San Vicente. The works of this Mexico City native have been featured in numerous exhibitions all over the world, and his illustrations have won numerous awards. For this book of hybrid nonfiction, Vicente wrote a fanciful poem describing the antics of the many skeletons (used as decoration) on El Dia de Los Muertos. These happy skeletons ride bikes, go roller skating, and sing and dance during this day of celebration. His images and poetry convey the celebratory essence of this festival that commemorates the lives of loved ones that have passed. In the poetry section, San Vicente does a great job describing how this holiday celebrates life in a festive way, and in doing so, he separates this holiday from the holiday it is often confused with: Halloween. In the next section, San Vicente wonderfully summarizes the history of the holiday and tells readers how they can incorporate aspects of the holiday into their lives. Readers can visit the graves of loved ones and cook the traditional treats (recipes included) of sugar skulls and pan de muerto to celebrate. But San Vicente reiterates multiple times that this holiday is a party and even includes an ancient Nahuatl poem at then end that speaks of life everlasting.

San Vicente's artwork is where this book shines. The pictures are dazzling and show definitive aspects of the festival. Family members and friends dress up their skeletons in the way in which their passed loved ones used to dress. The skeletons San Vicente drew are not the scary ones used to frighten during Halloween. His skeletons are dressed up like everyday people doing the things they liked to do when they were alive. His poem is also written in both Spanish and English and would be useful in a language class.

In relating this book to Denise Davila's article "In Search of the Ideal Reader for Nonfiction Children's Books About El Dia De Los Muertos," it would appear that this book would qualify as acceptable according to her criteria. True, it is not purely nonfiction since the first section features an anthropomorphic poem about dancing skeletons, but San Vicente's information section is perfectly accurate and appropriate for his target audience. Not once does he mention Halloween or speak in a condescending or offensive tone. He gives the history of the holiday and explains how it is celebrated. The last sections on how to build traditional alters for loved ones and how to bake traditional treats does lead me to believe that he is writing to an outsider who is unfamiliar with these customs. Again, he does not pass judgement. He simply states what to do, which gives this last section of the book a more "how to" characterization. The only time I saw a phrase analyzed by Davila was in the synopsis on the book's dust jacket. It states that "Mexico's Day of the Dead fascinates kids - whether for its joyful celebration or its unusual traditions." The use of the word "unusual" is something Davila harped on to show how these books cater to outsiders and use judgmental language, however, I don't believe San Vicente had anything to do with what was put on the dust jacket. I believe those choices are made by the publishers thereby clearing San Vicente from Davila's wrath. But this book does feature the aspect that Davila claims is the key to capturing the essence of any culture. San Vicente is from Mexico City and presumably celebrated this holiday from birth. His firsthand experience with the holiday is essential according to Davila because only natives can really understand what makes this holiday so special and convey that to readers. I don't know if I agree with that, but I'm not critiquing her article here.

San Vicente's rich work on El Dia De Los Muertos would be great for young audiences and budding language students. I do not think I could use this book in my secondary classes because the language and reading level is so young. But I do think he does a great job of accurately describing the holiday's history and its cultural significance. ( )
  kaamstutz | Apr 9, 2013 |
The author of this book has won awards for his illustrations, and deservedly so. They are vibrant and humorous drawings that capture the spirit of Dia de los Muertos. Skeletons dance, sing, rush to get married; they are joyous and some are spooky, they are dressed in traditional clothing and practice the habits of their culture just as they did in life. Accompanying these fantastic illustrations is a poem, in Spanish with an English translation beside it, that rhythmically evokes a chant. At the end of the story comes several pages of simple essays, written for a child's understanding, that explain the holiday and traditions associated with it. The authors even provide directions on how to create an altar, pan de muerto, and skull candy.

As a native Tucsonan, I am fond of this tradition, even though I'm not Hispanic and my family never celebrated the holiday. I like the way it celebrates life through death, and its atmosphere of joyous celebration. The pictures and poem in this book perfectly capture that feeling. The story is fun and respectful. I also like that Dia de los Muertos is a custom rather unique to our area. This is a great book to introduce children to the holiday, with a captivating story followed by succinct explanatory notes; with the gorgeous illustrations, it is not to be missed. ( )
  nmhale | Nov 17, 2012 |
Mexico’s Day of the Dead is a three day celebration where one’s deceased loved ones are remembered and celebrated. At the end of the book there are suggestions for celebrating the Day of the Dead along with several recipes. Although I enjoyed the book and the illustrations, I think the skeletons may be frightening or scary for young children. Particularly, “the baby skeleton, with her scary mask and her box with the little candle.” ( )
  JanaRose1 | Feb 9, 2011 |
Beautifully illustrated, I also appreciate the information in the back of the book on how to make a sugar skull and more about the holiday. As a book to teach children about the celebration, it is brief and will need to be supplemented with additional information.
  blancaflor | Oct 26, 2008 |
"Summary: Describes the Day of the Dead, or el Dia de los Muertos, a holiday celebrated in Mexico from October 31 to November 2."
Great illustrations, includes a description of the holiday, how you can celebrate, how to build an alter, and how to make Pan de Muerto and sugar skulls.
In English and Spanish. ( )
  angellreads | Jan 12, 2008 |
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Describes the Day of the Dead, or el Dia de los Muertos, a holiday celebrated in Mexico from October 31 to November 2.

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