The Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras is a colorful bilingual children’s book dealing with the subject matter of the Day of the Dead. The book is illustrated with happy looking skeletons as they gather together in preparation for the festival. The general tone of the book is one of excitement and expectation, although what is shown in the book is preparation for the gathering, not the actual gathering itself. The narrative itself is a little discordant and hard to follow, which might be the result of the lyrical poetry being translated from Spanish into English. If you’re looking for a plot heavy narrative, you won’t find it here.
After the story in the back of the book there is a section explaining what exactly the Day of the Dead is, and how it is traditionally celebrated. This section is clearly educational and appears geared towards parents in order to help explain this cultural holiday. The book also includes directions on how to build an altar to deceased ancestors, and recipes for Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead bread) and sugar skulls – all traditional aspects to properly celebrating the Day of the Dead, but definitely something most children will need adult supervision in putting together.
Overall, The Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras is a decent attempt to share and educate an aspect of Mexican culture with children. While the story in the book falls short, the illustrations are stylistically lovely, and the educational material in the back of the book is informative and interesting.
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