6 Picture Books for Day of the Dead

day-of-the-dead-collageI still remember what happened the first time I spoke aloud in my advanced Spanish grammar class my sophomore year of college. The professor paused in his lecture and looked directly at me. “You sound like you’re from Mexico,” he said. “That’s because I learned Spanish from Mexicans,” I thought to myself, not sure if he meant that as a compliment. Every one of my first Spanish teachers was from Mexico, not counting my 9th grade Spanish teacher who grew up in the South and told us stories about the difficulty of learning Spanish pronunciation from someone with a Southern drawl. (He was married to a Mexican woman and spent his summers in Mexico, so I still say he counts.) We may live 2,000 miles from Mexico now, but I’m doing my best to raise my kids to be desert rats at heart. That means there’s been lots of talk about antepasados and decorating calaveras this week as we celebrate our own version of Day of the Dead. Because no celebration is complete around our house without books, here are 6 of our favorite Dia de los Muertos books for kids:

Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter is a colorful little book that captures the anticipation of children waiting for the celebration to begin. “The children try to sneak the mole–just a taste. ‘Esperanse,’ the stirring aunts say.”

The Day of the Dead/El Día de los Muertos by Bob Barner is a cheerful poem all about el Día de los Muertos. The playful illustrations match the feeling of the holiday, especially the dancing skeletons and bright marigolds. I could never pick just one favorite on this list, but the illustrations in this book are so festive that I keep coming back to look at it again.

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Dungan Tonathiuh is a non-fiction biographical account of how calaveras came to be. The author does not shy away from explaining the political unrest in Mexico during Posada’s lifetime, but the events are used to illustrate the way Posada used his calaveras as art and political expression. The author’s note, bibliography, and glossary are as stout as I expect from a well-researched biography, but the text itself is not bogged down by stiff details and dates. I can see why the book has won so many awards. It really is masterfully done.

Dia de los Muertos by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Carles Ballesteros is another bright poem all about the sights and sounds of the Day of the Dead. “As candle flames glisten our smiles are bright / Our ancestros know we are with them tonight.” Like all of Roseanne Greenfield Thong’s books, this one really embraces the culture she represents on the page.

Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book by Jeanette Winter is just what it sounds like: an alphabet book full of silly calaveras for each letter of the alphabet. My kids think calaveras are the silliest thing they’ve ever seen, so this is probably their favorite book on the list.

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra has made an appearance on the blog before. It’s such a simple, wonderful book of colors. I love the way she integrates Spanish vocabulary in the poem, and the illustrations are just lovely.

We’ll be trying our hand at pan de muertos and telling stories about the grandparents we love and miss. Are you celebrating el Día de los Muertos at your house?


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