November 21, 2017

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Time Is Ticking: Susie Jaramillo on the Day of the Dead

A foldout view of Esqueletitos in Spanish. Illustrations by Susie Jaramillo

The author/illustrator Susie Jaramillo is the creator and publisher of the acclaimed “Canticos” books. Here she talks about what inspired her latest bilingual, foldout, lift-the-flap board book, Little Skeletons Countdown to Midnight/Esqueletitos: un libro de contar en El Día de los Muertos (Encantos).

The Day of the Dead (DOD) holiday, (El Día de los Muertos) from October 31 to November 2, is both a celebration honoring those loved ones whom we’ve lost, and whom I would like to think still walk among us, and a reminder that life is short and precious and we should treasure the time we have.

I’ve always loved the iconography and pageantry that has surrounded this particular holiday. Mexican people have a way of being close to death. This comes through most vividly in our DOD celebrations. Death is celebrated with humor, eloquence, mysticism, sorrow, and style.

With each “Canticos” book, we try to work in a teaching concept along with a nursery rhyme so that caregivers and educators can find more ways to use these books. When I came across the song “Esqueletos,” written around the numbers of a clock, I thought, “How perfect: We can help teach kids how to tell time, while reminding them exactly of how valuable time is. Each hour should be lived, no matter how simple, or how extraordinary, in the moment.

In Spanish we say “El tiempo (time) se aprovecha.” Aprovecha is a wonderful word in Spanish. It means “to take advantage of something while you have the opportunity.” It gets used often, speaking to values of quick thinking and maximizing opportunities in Latinx culture, and there is no word like it in English. The “Tomb-a-la-ca” rhythm in the song is fun for kids to sing and dance to, and not to mention we get to do a play on words in the English version with the word tomb.

Susie Jaramillo

With Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos, I took a break from the acrylics I normally use for the “Canticos” books and just used pencil. The idea was to keep that rustic black-and-white look of the comical and powerful woodcuts by José Guadalupe Posada, or the eerily fantastic etchings of in his illustrated classic, “La Pulquería.” Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos is an homage to these wonderful illustrations with a “Canticos” twist for kids.

While we like to pull characters from different nursery rhymes and bring them to life, usually with one character per book, here we brought together a whole cacophony of characters, properly outfitted for the occasion. They aren’t really skeletons at all—they are esqueletitos!! Adorable and adorned and out-and-about ’til midnight!

Check out the sing-along video for “Esqueletitos.”

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Comments

  1. Love this book – the illustrations are beautiful and I love the sense of humor! My kids love the accordion book format. They read, play and sing with this books!

  2. Paola Camelo says:

    Whaaaat??? I know this song from my childhood and love it, so glad some one brought all these songs together. Perfect mix for Halloween and the Day of the Dead!!! I will sure sing-along with my kids and let them share our culture with all.

  3. Lara alcantara says:

    One thing I have to say is that I find this amazing! This reminds me so much of when I was a child! The illustrations are so beautiful, fun and tue to the artist. The English Spanish part is really a great way to introduce my kids to this song in Spanish that I used to love. Happy Halloween everyone!

  4. So glad you like! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Have been following every book that has come out by Canticos and I love how this one goes even deeper into Latino culture than just the regular nursery rhymes. It showcases the huge range of inspiration that we can leverage from Latin America and how strong our culture is. My kids love every single book and I’m sure they’ll love this one too.

  6. Beatriz Chong says:

    The beautiful illustrations invite even the most timid of children to join these little skeletons on their journey through time. My kindergartner absolutely loves her Esqueletitos book, and with the help of the sister app, she is already reciting her numbers in Spanish and making connections between the two languages presented in this two-for-one book. Even my older children, not necessarily the target age-group for Canticos books, are now constantly asking me how to say things is Spanish. The Canticos series have sparked a flame I hope to stoke. Thanks to Canticos for helping me bring part of my culture into my children’s lives in a way I hadn’t done before.

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