Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

An incredibly interesting and engaging book…img_0743

Title: Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
Written and illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015, biography, 40 pages
Suitable for ages: 6-10 (and older)
Themes/topics: art, Mexico, Day of the Dead

Opening: Skeletons riding bicycles…skeletons wearing fancy hats…skeletons dancing and strumming on guitars. We call these festive bony figures calaveras. In Spanish, the word calavera [ca-la-VEH-rah] means “skull.” A lot of things that are associated with skulls and with El Día de Muertos – the Day of the Dead – are called calaveras. For example, there are calavera drawings, candy calaveras, calavera poems, and calavera toys. The skeleton figures are not scary – in fact, they look as if they’re having fun.
They are the creation of José Guadalupe Posada, and this is his story.

Brief synopsis: (from Worldcat.org) Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras – skeletons performing various everyday or festive activities – came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada (1852-1913). In a country that was not known for freedom of speech, he first drew political cartoons, much to the amusement of the local population but not the politicians. He continued to draw cartoons throughout much of his life, but he is best known today for his calavera drawings. They have become synonymous with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Juxtaposing his own art with that of Lupe’s, author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the remarkable life and work of a man whose art is beloved by many but whose name has remained in obscurity. The book includes an author’s note, bibliography, glossary, and index.

Links to resources:
• ART! Wow, you could do so much with art. Comparing and contrasting. Creating. The book describes the steps for lithography, engraving, and etching.
• Social Studies: Older students can explore political cartoons.
• Extensive back matter offers a variety of opportunities for extension.
Great educator’s guide here 

Why I like this book:
I learned so much! I had never heard of this artist and never knew anything about the calavera art associated with Day of the Dead. Posada’s political cartoons open a windimg_0744ow into the society and politics of the time. And the illustrations are phenomenal! This book has so much classroom potential – be sure to check out the educator’s guide above.
And what an excellent choice to use with English Language Learners (ELLs) and bilingual Spanish/English students and classes!
It’s the perfect time to check out this book!

To take a look at several other books by Duncan Tonatiuh, click here.

Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent resources.


4 thoughts on “Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

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