Skeletina and the In-Between World

Encantos. Oct. 2020. 26p. Board $12.99. ISBN 9781945635465.
K-Gr 2–Skeletina is a self-sufficient skeleton girl who lives in the in-between: a place of the dreams of sleeping children, the realm of the deceased with unfinished business, and home to all sorts of weird creatures and manifestations. “But, nothing scares Skeletina, although many of the odd creatures in the in-between world have definitely tried! And speaking of odd creatures, some of them are even her best friends.” Skeletina is meant to be seen as a guide or comforting character for children to seek out when they are in the in-between, which is presented not as a scary place, but one where they can have their own agency. However, this idea barely comes through in the disorganized text, which doesn’t immediately place Skeletina in the role of guide. Overuse of run-on sentences create a disjointed feel: “She knows that when she fears that someone is trying to sneak into her house, it is usually the shadow Creepers, who is just lonely and needs attention. Skeletina plays music for him and his eyes grow wide in surprise as he listens. Then he usually smiles and disappears as fast as he comes.” Asibikaashi or Spider Woman, here presented as Skeletina’s Spider Grandma, inspires the child to create beautiful webs—dream catchers. Spider Grandma embodies a sort of Native wise-woman stereotype, wearing fringed moccasins, chunky rings, bracelets, and a feathered dream catcher necklace.
VERDICT Charming pen-and-ink illustrations are comic, but can’t rescue the story from veering from a celebration of Latinx culture into appropriation of the Ojibwe. Not recommended for purchase.

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