Our Day of the Dead Celebration

Penguin/­Nancy Paulsen. Sept. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525514282.
K-Gr 3–In her authorial debut, Aranda, illustrator of The Chupacabra Ate Our Candelabra, delivers a charming ode to the Latinx Day of the Dead holiday. A little girl narrates this sweet tale that takes readers through her family’s preparations for the event that occurs every November 1st through 2nd, in which families honor those who came before with altars, poems, marigolds, and sugar skeletons. Mar and her sister Paz learn how to make Tia Lucha’s favorite tamales, Paz practices their great-grandfather’s accordion, and they read through Grandpa Ramón’s travel journals. The importance of family, storytelling, and tradition shines through the text and joyous textured illustrations, rendered in watercolor, ink, gouache, and a little bit of Himalayan salt on the paper. Warm and vibrant hues, such as the orange of the marigolds and the bright colors of the papel picado, add to the lively, celebratory mood. The end papers feature a family tree that shows which of the relatives have departed and which ones are still alive. Calaveras, or skulls, and living people mingle throughout, but the joy-filled celebration is especially evident during the fiesta scenes. The matter-of-fact text contains not a hint of fear or mourning, which might be just the right tone for some children with a recent death in the family, making this a perennial title and not one to relegate to Day of the Dead shelves or displays. The living characters all have tan skin and dark hair. A short author’s note concludes the book.
VERDICT Great fun; a strong choice for picture book collections.

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