THE FESTIVAL OF BONES/El Festival de las Calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead

Luis San Vicente, Author, John William Byrd, Translator, Bobby Byrd, Translator , trans. by John William Byrd and Bobby Byrd. Cinco Puntos $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-938317-67-8

Originally published in Mexico, this bilingual primer on the Day of the Dead may be best suited to those already familiar with the festival. For the uninitiated, an afterword explains that Mexicans celebrate el día de los muertes from October 31 to November 2. Feasts, music and visits to gravesites help the living honor the dead, who are believed by many to return for the festivities. Vicente, a respected Mexico City artist, creates charming skeletal characters; their playfulness accentuates the holiday's merriment. Rendered in a style reminiscent of scratchboard illustrations, his bony subjects dance in top hats and ride bicycles amid a fetchingly surreal world. For "Pascual's skeleton sings a song/ Without any pain or dread/ Although half a leg is really gone/ Still a flower sits upon his head," he pictures the skeletal fellow balanced on one leg atop a crescent moon and a wide-eyed owl as his audience. But for norteños, the macabre content may not translate well. The text abruptly begins with a deceased guitarist crooning, "The skeletons are going along the road to the graveyard.... These are the dead. How happy they are." They may be further confused by a shifting narrative voice and non sequitur conclusion. But for those immersed in Mexican culture, this neatly designed square volume offers a fresh look at a familiar subject. Ideas on how to honor the dead and recipes for the holiday feast are included. Ages 4-10. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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